By Bill Foley
At times on Saturday, a shorthanded Butte High girls’ basketball team played right with a talented and deep Missoula Sentinel team.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they spotted the Spartans a 26-point lead. That proved to be way too much to overcome, and Sentinel beat Butte High 65-38 in a Western AA game at the Richardson Gym.
“Once we kind of figured it out, we at least didn’t look as panicked as we did in the past,” Butte High coach Maury Cook said after his Bulldogs fell to 1-6. “So, there was a little bit of progress there.”
The Spartans press to start the game was too much for the Bulldogs, who were down a pair of starters because of a COVID-19 quarantine.
Sentinel scored the game’s first 14 points and led 20-2 after the first quarter. That lead was 31-5 after Brooke Stayner scored in transition midway through the second quarter.
From that point, though, Sentinel outscored Butte High just 34-33.
“We ran our offense at times really well,” Cook said of that stretch. “We were executing things we haven’t executed before. Shots started to fall a little bit. We were shooting in rhythm, shooting out of our offense instead of trying to force things up.”
Junior Brooke McGrath had what looked to be a breakout performance to lead all scores with 15 points. She hit three 3-pointers and scored by attacking the basket.
The most impressive thing about McGrath’s line was that she ran out of quarters after playing the junior varsity game and the first three quarters of the varsity contest. She had to sit out the fourth quarter.
Sophomore Emmarie Richards joined senior MacKenzie Tutty with seven points for the Bulldogs. Junior Tylar Clary hit a 3-pointer, and juniors Mya Stenson and Ashley Olson and sophomore Payton Clary each scored two points.
Madalynn Rhodes, Laura Rosenleaf, Rian Ferriter and Pieper Joseph also played for the Bulldogs.
“All of our kids who stepped on the floor tonight gave us everything they had,” Cook said. “MacKenzie Tutty came out and kind of exerted herself as a leader today. We’ve been lacking that leadership stuff, and I think she’s starting to step up that way.”
The coach also pointed to the play of Rosenleaf, who battles relentlessly on the boards.
“She just emptied the tank,” Cook said. “She was all over the place. She works her tail off. Those are the things that need to be contagious on our team. If we put it together, we’re going to be competitive. It just seems like we get great play out of one and we’re just not al in sync.”
The Spartans did not have that same problem. They played so well in the first 12 minutes that they could call off the press for the rest of the game.
Challis Westwater, the 6-foot-2 daughter of head coach Karen Deden, scored 14 points to lead three Spartans in double figures. Olivia Huntsinger and Stayner each scored 13 points.
Sentinel, which improved to 4-3, also got eight points from Kodi Fraser, six from Jaden Salisbury, five from C.C. Size, four from Megan Hamilton and two from Emily McElmurry.
Butte High is back in action Thursday when the Bulldogs play host to Helena Capital. The Bulldogs will get senior McCaul McCarthy and junior Kodie Hoagland back just in time for that game.
That means yet another week of practice that Butte High will not have its full roster to work with. The Bulldog team returned from a 10-day quarantine just in time to play eight days ago.
“We’ve been through adversity,” Cook said. “We need to gather ourselves and continue to improve. We just want to improve until the end of the year. That’s all we can ask.”
The coach said he saw signs that will happen in Saturday’s loss.
“The effort was good tonight,” Cook said. “We’ve just got to play through adversity, and hopefully at some point this year we’re going to have our whole squad back and we’ll play some basketball.”
MISSOULA SENTINEL (4-3) — Olivia Huntsinger 5 2-5 13, Brooke Stayner 5 3-4 13, Kodi Fraser 2 3-4 8, Jaden Salisbury 3 0-0 6, Challis Westwater 6 1-5 14, CC Size 2 0-0 5, Megan Hamilton 2 1-4 4, Aliyah Big Lake 0 0-0 0, Charolette Cumming 0 0-0 0, Hannah Hart 0 0-0 0, Lilly Allen 0 0-1 0, Emily McElmurry 0 2-2 20. Totals 25 12-22 65.
BUTTE HIGH (1-6) — MacKenzie Tutty 2 1-4 7, Madalynn Rhodes 0 0-0 0, Tylar Clary 1 0-0 3, Maddison Skeel 0 0-0 0, Ashley Olson 0 2-4 2, Lauren Rosenleaf 0 0-0 0, Emmarie Richards 3 0-0 7, Brooke McGrath 6 0-0 15, Mya Stenson 1 0-0 2, Payton Clary 1 0-0 2, Rian Ferriter 0 0-0 0, Pieper Joseph 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 3-8 38.
Sentinel 20 18 13 14 — 65
Butte 2 16 11 9 — 38
3-point goals — Sentinel 3 (Fraser, Size, Westwater), Butte 7 (McGrath 3, Tutty 2, Clary, Richards). Fouls — Sentinel 10, Butte 17. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.