By Bill Foley
Butte High had some momentary offensive standouts Saturday afternoon at the Richardson Gym.
Senior guard Ally Cleverly scored 12 points in the blink of an eye in the third quarter. Classmate Aspen Lovshin tossed in six points in the first quarter, and junior Haley Herron scored six in the second.
The Bulldog defense, however, was the star of the game as the Bulldogs opened Eastern AA play with a 48-37 win over Great Falls Russell.
“Defensively, we’re holding teams to under 40 points,” Butte High coach Maury Cook said. “That’s a good deal any time. I’m really happy with our defense. It’s kept us in a lot of games when we’re not scoring well.”
The win, which lifted Butte High to 3-2 overall, might have been just the first of conference play. It might have been in early January. It definitely had a ton of added meaning for the Bulldogs, however.
CMR overcame a nine-point Butte High lead to knock off the Bulldogs in a loser-out game last March in the Eastern AA Divisional tournament at Montana Tech’s HPER Complex.
Lovshin, who aggressively took the ball to the hole several times, said that game was on the minds of the Bulldogs heading in.
“Yeah, a little bit,” Lovshin said of the revenge factor. “We just wanted to beat them now that we’re doing a little better.”
One of Lovshin’s driving hoops came at the buzzer to end the first quarter, cutting CMR’s lead to 10-8 after the first eight minutes.
That hoop came in the middle of a 9-0 run that put Butte on top 14-10. CMR battled back with seven straight before Butte High rattled off six in a row, and the Bulldogs took a 20-19 lead into halftime.
After the break, the Ally Cleverly Show took over.
Cleverly scored on a breakaway layup to start a 15-2 Butte run to open the third quarter. Cleverly scored 12 of those 15 points. Classmate Brittney Tierney hit a 3-poitner to account for the others.
Tierney also hit a long 2-ponit jumper to extend Butte’s lead to 37-23 after 6-foot-3 junior Allie Olsen stopped the bleeding for the Rustlers with an inside hoop.
The Rustlers scored the final six points of the third quarter to cut the lead to 37-29 with 8 minutes to go. Marley Calliham scored for CMR to open the fourth, and that didn’t sit well with Cook.
“I thought there for a minute, ‘Oh my god, here we go again,’” Cook said with a laugh, referring to the loss in the divisional game that still stings the coach.
This time, though, the Bulldogs answered. Herron hit one of two free throws before Lovshin drove for an three-point play to put the Dogs up 10 at 41-31 with 4:48 left.
Butte High’s defense held off an offensive lull before Herron drove for a hoop and a 43-34 lead with 2:30 left.
Butte High shot 5 for 6 from the free throw line in the final minute secure the game.
“Defense is going to keep us in the game when we’re not shooting the ball well,” Cook said. “If we can play defense like that, I think we’ll be alright.”
Cleverly scored 14 points to lead three Bulldogs in double figures. Lovshin finished with 12, while Herron scored 11 and Tierney netted nine.
Lovshin, the point guard, said it is fun playing with so many weapons.
“We’ve got to get everyone involved,” she said. “We have to make sure to drive an kick when that’s open and drive and shoot when that’s open.”
Justise Birkenbuel, Makenna Carpenter and Kira Mortensen also contributed for the Bulldogs. Birkenbuel scored two points. She was also big on the boards and defense along with Carpenter and Mortensen.
“The posts really rebounded well, and they stepped up to guard the big girls,” Lovshin said.
Mortensen, though, had to leave the game early after hitting the floor hard. She missed the first part of the season after suffering a concussion during the volleyball season.
The possibility of Mortensen missing time again magnifies the play off Herron.
“Haley, this is only her second game where she’s had a good offensive output, and she’s capable of that every night,” he said of his undersized 5-8 post player. “The problem is she’s playing big girls every night. She plays girls who are four or five inches taller than her every night. That wears on you. It takes your legs away. So seeing her getting out there and scoring like that against a tall post player is a big deal for us.”
The coach was not surprised by the outstanding perimeter play from Lovshin, Cleverly and Tierney.
“Our guards always show up,” the coach said. “If it isn’t Britt, it’s Al. If it isn’t Al, it’s Aspen. Those girls are really stepping up for us.”
Olsen fished with 13 points to lead CMR. Emily Funseth hit a pair of 3-pointers and scored 12 points. The Rustlers also got seven points from Kiely Gunderson, four from Marley Calliham and one from Lauren Linseth.
The Bulldogs are back in action next Saturday when they hit the road to take on Great Falls High.
GREAT FALLS RUSSELL (1-6, 0-1) — Lauren Linseth 0 1-4 1, Emily Funseth 5 0-1 12, Allie Olsen 6 1-2 13, Kiely Gunderson 3 0-0 7, Marley Calliham 2 0-0 4, Chloe Pace 0 0-0 0, Alex Madsen 0 0-0 0, J.J. Slaten 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 2-7 37.
BUTTE HIGH (3-2, 1-0) — Aspen Lovshin 3 6-10 12, Makenna Carpenter 0 0-0 0, Ally Cleverly 5 2-2 14, Haley Herron 3 5-7 11, Brittney Tierney 4 0-0 9, Justise Birkenbuel 1 0-0 2, Kira Mortensen 0 0-0 0. Totals 16 13-19 48.
Russell 10 9 10 8 — 37
Butte 8 12 17 11 — 48
3-point goals — CMR 3 (Funseth 2, Gunderson), Butte 3 (Cleverly 2, Tierney). Fouls — CMR 17, Butte 15. Fouled out — Tierney.