BUTTE — Two contrasting styles met at Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym, but Missoula Hellgate’s late shooting saw the Knights prevail.
Hellgate defeated Butte 57-45 to improve to 8-1 on the season, while dropping the Bulldogs to 5-5. The Knights outscored Butte 23-12 in the final quarter, going on an impressive run to finish the game and claim a road win.
Hellgate head coach Rob Henthorn credited both teams for a contest focused on defense and toughness.
“It was a defensive battle from the get-go,” Henthorn said. “[Butte] has some shooters and they put the ball up a lot and we didn’t close out as well as we wanted to. We still want to get better on the defensive side.”
Butte and Hellgate had a close battle early in the contest, as neither side found consistent offensive production thanks to strong defensive efforts from both sides.
The Knights were able to lead the majority of the half thanks to the inside-out play of their forwards, primarily focused on the 6’3” freshman Alex Covill.
However, the Bulldogs stayed in striking distance thanks to deep-range shooting, as junior MacKenzie Tutty and senior Trisha Ericson both knocked down treys in key moments, seeing Butte enter the half down 28-27.
Butte head coach Maury Cook acknowledged his team’s ability to adapt to play man defense, but also said that the Bulldogs needed to play better late in the game.
“We got beat on the back door there a couple times,” Cook said. “At the end, we need to execute better. I thought we did a great job from the beginning, we played a lot of man defense, which we haven’t done before, so I was proud of the kids for making that adjustment.”
The beginning of the second half replicated the first half of well-matched, tight defenses, as neither team broke into double-digit scoring and ended the third quarter at a deadlock of 8-8, and a scoreline of 36-35.
The Knights were prepared for the final 10 minutes, opening up an 11-1 run to start the fourth quarter, as an impressive “and one” play from sophomore Keke Davis broke the Bulldogs open.
Henthorn praised Davis for the play and for being an important impact player off the bench for the Knights.
“Keke [Davis] came off the bench to play,” Henthorn said. “She gave us 110 percent, made some critical shots and made some key steals. The ‘and one’ was the turnaround.”
Butte continued to battle and foul to work their way back, but Hellgate consistently defended and knocked down free throws to see out the victory.
The Knights were led by Davis’ 15 points from the bench, while the pair of Lauren Dick and Covill each totaled 11 points. Addy Heaphy and Bailee Sayler rounded out Hellgate’s top scorers, with nine and seven respectively.
Butte senior Haley Herron matched Davis’ 15 points from the purple end, while Ericson’s three-point shooting saw her end with 11. Tutty’s two first-half treys were her only made baskets, and she finished with six points.
Cook complimented the Knights for a well-played game, but that Butte has to worry about finishing games after playing top teams well.
“We came out and played hard against a very good team,” Cook said. “Hats off to Hellgate, they’re very well coached and they were disciplined tonight, and at times, we were not. Every day is a drive toward that [state] tournament, and we’re playing great teams tooth-and-nail, we just have to be able to execute down the stretch.”
Hellgate next takes on Missoula Big Sky on Jan. 28 as away opponents, while Butte also prepares for a road trip to Big Sky on Jan. 28.