By Bruce Sayler
Butte High’s seniors weren’t about to lose on their night.
The Bulldog girls applied a smothering defense that distorted a Missoula Sentinel offense into something grotesque and beat the Spartans 46-31 Friday night in a Western AA Conference high school girls’ basketball game in Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
Smallish Butte High double-defended 6-foot-2 Sentinel star Olivia Huntsinger from the front and from the back, holding her to eight points and 2-for-13 shooting from the field. For the game, the Spartans were an icy 9-for-56 from the floor – 16 percent – including a glacial 2-for-20 from the 3-point line.
Many of the points were nowhere close to the intended marks.
Butte High didn’t torch the nets either, but the Bulldogs’ 16-for-51 and 5-for-19 comparisons were better. They were better enough for the win.
“We played really well on defense,” Butte High head coach Bryan Arntson said. “We did enough of a good job on rebounding, and we made some buckets when it counted. It got kind of scary at the end.”
The Bulldogs lost rebounding phenom Laura Rosenleaf to her fifth foul with 3 minutes, 14 seconds left I the game and holding a 36-25 lead.
Sentinel missed on its opportunities, though Huntsinger caged two free throws on Rosenleaf’s last foul. However, the Spartans made just one of their next four foul shots and Butte High got away with eighth-grader Cadence Graham stretching the strings twice from behind the arc on clutch shots.
The seconds upped the lead to 42-30 and Sentinel game up its next two possessions, converted by Graham on two charity tosses and Emmarie Richards on a basket off a Graham feed. It was a 46-30 game with a minute to go and a Huntsinger freebie tallied the last point of the game.
“She’s tough,” Arntson said of the Sentinel standout. “We tried to keep the ball away from her, or tried to make it so she caught in a position she wasn’t comfortable in being. We switched up girls defending her and they all did a great job.”
The six Butte High seniors were honored with their family members in a pregame ceremony as the crowd applauded in thanks to Payton Clary, Rosenleaf, Richards, Taylor Bushman, Rian Ferriter and Brooke Groesbeck.
The 5-11 Rosenleaf pulled down 13 rebounds, second to Huntsinger’s 15 though being in foul trouble and having to miss much of the second half.
Her basket just before halftime lifted the Bulldogs to a 14-13 edge at intermission.
Butte High then broke from the locker room with the first nine points of the second half in a 13-3 surge that gave the Bulldogs a 27-16 advantage. The Bulldogs were in control for good.
“I said, ‘Girls, go have a good third quarter,’ “Arntson quipped about his halftime talk with the team. “Actually, the third quarter had been our nemesis all year. But, tonight, we came out and got some 50-50 balls, started hitting some shots and that’s what was key to our game.”
Brityn Stewart scored nine of Butte High’s 17 points in the quarter as the Bulldogs enjoyed a 31-22 margin going into the last frame.
“We got a couple of kids making shots and everybody played hard and the bench was great,” Arntson said. “It got contagious and the everyone was excited to go in and play
“Senior night is always emotional. It’s a roller-coaster of emotions. It was nice to see the kids hold on. We struggle when Laura gets in foul trouble. The kids always seem to play harder when she is in the game and they see how hard she plays. She always gets us extra possessions with the way she rebounds and defends and goes after loose balls.”
Two players who came in off the bench, Graham and Stewart, wound up leading the Bulldogs in points with 12 and 11, respectively. Graham often provides instant offense with her long-range shooting accuracy and Stewart, a sophomore, is usually a starter, but Arntson opted for an all-senior lineup for the Senior Night game.
Rosenleaf had nine points, Richards scored seven, Clary four, and Groesbeck three. Bushman, Dylann Bartoletti, Ferriter, Elli Quist, Ashby Lee and Taylor Drakos also played.
Richards emitted composure and dished five assists to go with her seven points and fierce defense.
“I thought this was one of Emmarie’s best games, best game of the year,” Arntson said. “Offensively, she is a great player every night, but when she locks in on her other parts of the game, she is one of the best players in the state. She handled (the Spartans’) pressure tonight and is a really good passer.”
An unusually high number of shot blocks spiced the game as Sentinel had six, and Butte High registered seven swats. Individual leaders were Huntsinger and Rosenleaf with three apiece, often on each other.
The win put Butte High at 4-12 for the season, 2-10 in Western AA play. The Bulldogs will finish their regular-season home schedule on Tuesday with a game against Helena High. Their regular-season finale will be on Friday at Helena Capital.
Sentinel is now 9-7 for the season, 5-6 in conference games. None of the Spartans made to double figures in points against Butte High. Non-starter Monroe Mastro led the scoring with nine points and Huntsinger was next with her eight.
MISSOULA SENTINEL (9-7, 5-6) – Olivia Huntsinger 2-13 4-6 8, CC Size 2-9 1-2 5, Emily McElmurry 1-13 1-2 3, Kaitlyn Hammett 0-3 0-0 0, Kassidy Kirgan 1-6 0-0 3, Monroe Mastro 2-10 4-4 9, Haley Wolsky 1-1 1-2 3, Teya Lochridge 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Size 0-1 0-0 0, Nina Sammoury 0-0 0-0 0, Shay Casagrande 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-56 11-16 31.
BUTTE HIGH (4-12, 2-10) – Payton Clary 1-5 2-2 4, Laura Rosenleaf 4-11 1-3 9, Emmarie Richards 3-9 0-1 7, Taylor Bushman 0-1 0-0 0, Brooke Groesbeck 1-5 1-2 3, Dylann Bartoletti 0-5 0-0 0, Brityn Stewart 4-9 2-2 11, Cadence Graham 3-6 3-4 12, Rian Ferriter 0-0 0-0 0, Elli Quist 0-0 0-0 0, Ashby Lee 0-0 0-0 0, Taylor Drakos 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-51 9-14 46.
Sentinel 4 9 9 9 – 31
Butte High 4 10 17 15 – 46
3-point goals – Sentinel 2-20 (Huntsinger 0-1, CC Size 0-5, McElmurry 0-6, Hammett 0-2, Kirgan 1-1, Mastro 1-5), Butte 5-19 (Clary 0-3, Richards 1-3, Bushman 0-1, Bartoletti 0-3, Stewart 1-4, Graham 3-5). Fouled out – Rosenleaf. Total fouls – Sentinel 15, Butte 18. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Sentinel 46 (Huntsinger 15, Hammett 8, Kirgan 8), Butte 47 (Rosenleaf 13, Stewart 8, Groesbeck 6). Blocks – Sentinel 6 (Huntsinger 3), Butte 7 (Rosenleaf 3). Assists – Sentinel 12 (CC Size 5), Butte 12 (Richards 5). Steals – Sentinel 7 (Huntsinger 2, McElmurry 2), Butte 9 (Graham 3, Richards 2, Rosenleaf 2). Turnovers – Sentinel 15, Butte 10. 2 comments
EliFebruary 18, 2023, 5:24 pm
Would it be possible to get a timely article or coverage of the boys game?REPLY
RobFebruary 19, 2023, 10:03 am
Great game girls! Can we please get coverage or an article on the boys game at Sentinel? Thank you!REPLY