BUTTE – Brittany Tierney hit four straight three-pointers in the third quarter as Butte High rolled to a 66-58 win over Missoula Big Sky.
Often open in the corner, the junior guard single-handedly turned a 2-point deficit into a 7-point lead in the final four minutes. She finished with 22 points, 14 of which came in the second half.
Butte improves to 1-1 on the year while Big Sky falls to 0-4.
“I knew that we needed to score some points so we could get a little comfortable,” Tierney said. “I was just thinking, if I’m open, I’m going to take the shot.
“I was like, well, I made a couple, why not keep going?”
The Eagles didn’t seem to have much of an answer for her and struggled to defend from deep. Tierney didn’t have a whole lot of issues finding open spots and didn’t seem particularly rushed when she was shooting.
Butte outscored Big Sky 16-9 in the third quarter and by eight points total in the second half. The game was tied at halftime.
“We didn’t get out on shooters, we knew we needed to get out on shooters and they knew they had a hot hand,” Eagles head coach Michela Anderson said. “That’s our fault. The third quarter killed us.”
It certainly helped that 6-foot-1 forward Kira Mortensen was a force in the paint and blocked several Big Sky shots. Mortensen was also solid on the offensive side of the ball, providing a strong post presence.
Defensively, Butte came alive in the second half after an up-and-down performance in the first. Tierney was one of the Bulldogs best defenders, fighting for rebounds and playing solid on-ball defense.
“I was pretty excited tonight and when I get a little excited I tend to get my teammates up and make big plays,” Tierney said. “I love making those big plays for my team because scoring is just one part of the game, it’s the defense that really makes the difference.”
Big Sky opened the game strong, running out to a six point lead before Butte started to chip away and took a two-point lead after the first quarter.
The Eagles responded however, behind forward Julie Riekena. The senior forward tallied 21 points and also came on strong in the final eight minutes of play, but it just wasn’t quite enough. Riekena was the only Big Sky player to score in double figures.
She was part of the reason the game got a little tight towards the end, but Butte was able to calmly knock down free throws. The Bulldogs' Ally Cleverly hit 7-of-10 in the final frame to preserve the win. She finished with 17 points while Aspen Lovshin ended with 11 to round out Butte’s double-digit scorers.
“I was happy with the way we shot free throws and I was happy with our composure at the end,” Butte head coach Maury Cook said. “We just have those moments where we’re missing assignments. We’re asking a lot of them because we’re changing defenses and assignments.
“We just need to correct those errors.”
BUTTE 50, BIG SKY 47
MISSOULA — Three Butte players scored in double digits to lead the Bulldogs to a win over the Eagles.
Big Sky rallied from the double-digit halftime deficit and closed the gap to just two points with 1:36 remaining, but a Tommy Mellott free throw forced the Eagles to try a desperation 3-pointer to tie at the buzzer.
It missed off the side of the iron and a the Bulldogs, who led as much as 36-21 after a Mellott 3-pointer opened up the second half, escaped.
"(We have) four or five juniors and a sophomore — we're just babies. I think next year we're in that situation, we're up 15-16 points, they'll be able to put their foot (down) on other teams a little more," Butte coach Luke Powers said. "We're just growing and learning, but we had great energy in our 1-3-1 zone -- we flew around in it.
"But you gotta credit Big Sky for fighting hard and hitting a ton of shots."
Before Big Sky's shots, though, came that zone Powers mentioned. The pesky trapping defense forced nine Eagle turnovers in the first quarter alone. Two came in the final 15 seconds of the frame and directly led to a 5-0 Butte run that pushed the Bulldogs lead to 10, 22-12. Butte's Kale McCarthy had all five points in the burst.
HARRISON-WILLOW CREEK 78, SHERIDAN 57
Lane Buus piled up 23 points to lead the Wildcats to a win over the Panthers.
Two other Harrison players scored in double digits, with Derik Defrance notching 21 and Vern Homner scoring 18.
Tyler Haag led Sheridan with 27 points.