Second half sends Bulldogs to State

It all started with one shot.

Butte High junior Hailey Hoagland sank a 3-pointer  31 seconds into the second half Thursday night, and the Bulldogs and their fans took a collective breath.

The long ball sparked a second half that saw Butte High outscore Billings Skyview 36-19 on the way to a 52-36 win over the Falcons in an Eastern AA playoff game at the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gymnasium.

The win sends the Bulldogs to the Class AA State tournament for the eighth straight year.

“Nat drove and kicked it out to me,” Hoagland said of senior Natalee Faupel. “That started us off good and got our confidence back. We just started rolling from there.”

Before the Bulldogs started their roll, the game had an upset feel to it.

Last-place Skyview led most of the first half and took a 17-16 lead into halftime. Less than 24 hours after Butte High’s boys’ team upset Bozeman on the road, the Bulldog fans feared seeing lighting strike twice.

“They came out free and loose and they hit some shots,” Butte High coach Jeff Arntson said of the Falcons (4-17). “But I knew we’d regroup somewhere.”

Faupel scored all 10 of Butte High’s first-quarter points. She ended with a game-high 24 points, almost single handedly keeping the Bulldogs (18-3) in the game for the first 16 minutes.

“Natalee played pretty consistent throughout,” Arntson said. “She was the only one scoring.”

Butte High trailed 10-2 before Faupel hit a pair of free throws, turned a 3-point play and sank a 3-pointer to tie the game at 10 late in the first. Vanessa Newman, though answered with two free throws to close the first quarter with Skyview up 12-10.

“I don’t know if we were too tight or what it was, but we didn’t play very good ‘D,'” Arntson said. “We didn’t execute our offenses.”

Skyview was also winning the battle of the boards, converting on several second-chance opportunities in the first half.

That pretty much ended when Arntson turned to sophomore Maria Michelotti off the bench.

“Michelotti did a nice job of the bench for us. She came in and took control of that a little,” the coach said. “She’s a strong girl.”

Then the Bulldogs gave themselves a little pep talk at halftime.

“We went in the locker room and we kind of told ourselves we need to step it up — not to freak out and just play our own game,” Hoagland said. “We said we have to play better defense and take it to the rack. If not, then look for the kick outs and that’s exactly what we did.

“I don’t think we were nervous,” Hoagland said. “I just think we knew we weren’t playing to our full potential, and that is what got us down a little bit.”

Hoagland’s three gave Butte High just its second lead of the game. Skyview junior Taven Morrison tied the game with an inside hoop. Then Faupel sank two free throws with 6 minutes, 31 seconds left in the third quarter, and the Bulldogs didn’t trail again.

Hoagland added a 3-pointer to make it a 30-25 game.

After Hailey Copinga hit two free throws for the Falcons, Butte High closed the quarter with a 7-2 run. Faupel hit a 3-pointer, Hattie Thatcher took a steal for a layup and Faupel scored on a put back to put Butte High on top 37-29 after three quarters.

Copinga started the fourth quarter with a put back.

Hoagland, though, made sure it wasn’t a momentum-starting bucket by driving and turning a three-point play. That started a 14-3 Bulldog run that put the game away.

Hoagland scored 11 of her 13 points in the second half. Sammy McGree scored six points, while Hattie Thatcher scored two, Michelotti and Erika McLeod netted two and Lexi Murphy tossed in one.

Carlie Haeffner started for the Bulldogs, who also got minutes from Mariah Richardson, McKaul Ori, Ashten McCloskey and Andie Hogan.

Arntson, who is in his 10th season as Butte High’s head coach, has guided the Bulldogs to the State tournament every year since the 2005-06 team broke a 12-year tournament drought.

“We’ve had some great kids in that time,” the coach said. “This crew is a great group of kids. They’ve done everything we’ve asked of them, and hopefully we can go to State and make a run.”

The Bulldogs also helped Butte make a little history. For the first time since girls’ basketball started at Butte High in 1974, Butte High and Butte Central will see its boys’ and girls’ teams all compete at State.

That was a fact that wasn’t lost on the Bulldogs Thursday night.

“We were talking about that last night on Twitter,” Hoagland said. “Everyone was talking back and forth from Central and Butte High. All the Central kids were supporting us, which was really nice. They were saying get the win so that all four teams can make it and represent Butte.

“It’s really cool,” Hoagland said. “I’m happy for everyone, especially our boys.”

Butte High will tentatively open the State tournament at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday at ExpoPark. The Bulldogs will play the No. 3 seed from the Western AA.

BILLINGS SKYVIEW (4-17) — Hannah Stott 0 2-2 2, Jessica Spang 1 2-4 4, Katie Nessan 1 0-2 2, Hailey Copinga 2 4-5 8, Taven Morrison 4 2-3 10, Vanessa Newman 4 2-3 10, Sara McDermott 0 0-0 0, Morgan Covington 0 0-0 0, Alex Allen 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 10-17 36.
BUTTE HIGH (18-3) — Hailey Hoagland 3 5-16 13, Natalee Faupel 7 8-9 24, Sammy McGree 3 0-0 6, Hattie Thatcher 1 2-3 4, Carlie Haeffner 0 0-0 0, Maria Michelotti 0 2-6 2, Mariah Richardson 0 0-0 0, Erika McLeod 0 2-2 2, McKaul Ori 0 0-0 0, Ashten McCloskey 0 0-0 0, Andie Hogan 0 0-0 0, Lexi Murphy 0 1-2 1. Totals 14 20-28 52.
Skyview          12    5   12    7 — 36
Butte               10    6   21   15 — 52

3-point goals — Skyview 0, Butte 4 (Hoagland 2, Faupel 2). Fouls — Skyview 20, Butte 13. Fouled out — Stott. Technicals — none.