BUTTE — Clapping her hands and yelling, Butte Central guard Tricia Joyce wanted the ball back.
She’d just missed a wide open 3-point shot, but teammate Maddie Kump was able to pull down a terrific offensive rebound over several Corvallis defenders. Kump took the ball to the top of the key, turned, and whipped the ball to Joyce, who didn’t have a defender anywhere near her.
The senior immediately launched another triple and the ball swirled around and down. It gave the Maroons the lead back and they wouldn’t relinquish it again, eventually winning 39-36.
“She’s just that kind of player, such a competitor,” Central head coach Meg Murphy said of Joyce. “She’s a heckuva player.”
Joyce finished with 16 points — nine of which came in the fourth quarter — as the Maroons were able to claw back from eight down to beat the Blue Devils. Freshman guard Sofee Thatcher also came on strong late, scoring eight points in the fourth to finish with 11 total.
Corvallis went cold from the field during the 15-3 run that helped the Maroons take control of the game, though were able to make things interesting late.
Trailing by seven with a little over one minute remaining, Lainie Albright hit a three to bring the Blue Devils within two possessions. Joyce then missed the front end of a one-and-one, which Corvallis turned into two points.
With 3.1 seconds left in the game, Central turned over the ensuing inbound pass, giving the Blue Devils the ball under their own basket. Hannah Martin was able to give herself some room to launch a 3-pointer, but the attempt clanged off the iron as the buzzer sounded.
“We were streaky,” Corvallis head coach Andy Knapp said. “We did some real good things when we went on our runs. Then we had some bad turnovers that kinda hurt us in the middle there and made us go flat.
“The last 30 seconds there we started to kick it back up again, but it was just too little, too late.”
Central’s defense was again impressive, especially in the fourth quarter. Joyce and Thatcher were a constant irritation for the Blue Devils, with the rest of the Maroons stepping up big over the final eight minutes.
Both teams turned over the ball fairly often, though Central was able to force some critical ones down the stretch. These in turn led to some fast break opportunities, though the Maroons did miss several easy layups.
“I always tell them … your offensive game will come once defensively you pick up your defense,” Murphy said. “Then your offense comes with it.”
The win moves Central to 4-6 overall with a 3-2 mark in the Southwest A. The Maroons are 3-1 in their last four games, with a one-point setback against Anaconda being their lone defeat. Central has played far past its preseason expectations and could very well contend at the district tournament.
With the loss, Corvallis drops out of a tie for first-place with Frenchtown into a second-place tie with the Maroons.
“We’re at the halfway point in our conference season right now,” Knapp said. “We’re in a dog fight in our conference. We’ve got to sharpen up.”