The Hellgate girls' basketball team got a little taste of typical Butte High basketball Thursday night. Needless to say, they didn't like it.
It took two overtimes, but the Bulldogs scratched out a 53-49 Western AA victory over the Knights at Hellgate gym.
"I think they just out-scrambled us," said Hellgate coach Craig Olson. "They just played Butte basketball. The bottom line is I've never seen a Butte basketball team not lay it all out on the line. That's what they did to us tonight. They pretty much outhustled us."
Senior guard Kristi Witt sparked Butte's second win of the season and second in a row. Witt scored 20 points - including a clutch 9-of-12 performance from the free-throw line in the two overtimes - improving the Bulldogs' mark to 2-4 in the league and 2-9 overall.
"I thought Kristi Witt did a real fine job of floor leadership for us," said first-year Bulldogs coach Jeff Arnston. "She hit some big free throws down the stretch to keep us at that four-point lead. Keeping that little cushion was enough to let us relax and to continue to play good, rather than tense up."
With the final minute of the second overtime ticking away, Witt came up big one last time.
After reserve sharp-shooting guard Alana Bahe threw in an off-balance 3-pointer to cut Butte's lead to 52-49, Hellgate's Ashleigh Van Fossen stole the Bulldogs' inbound pass, giving the Knights a chance to tie in the final 10 seconds.
But Witt charged at Van Fossen from behind, stole it back, got fouled and hit a free throw with three-tenths of a second left to seal the win.
"Finishing a game is something we're learning," Arnston said. "We've been playing like a very young basketball team, but the kids are improving each week. They're learning to play a full 32 minutes, or in this case, a little bit extra. But we're starting to see some real positive things from this group and I think we'll be alright down the road."
The Knights, who fell to 2-3, 5-5, were led by senior Libby Zinke, who's 17 points almost singlehandedly kept Hellgate in the game. Zinke's running floater in the lane with 15 seconds left in regulation, banked off the glass and tied the game 38-38, sending it to overtime.
Annie Seaman, the Knights' junior in the post, scored 14. But it was the seldom-used Bahe who became a major contributor in Olson's eyes.
"Alana Bahe came off the bench, hit a couple of big 3-pointers for us and got a steal or two," Olson said. "She didn't quit and she made some things happen for us. Obviously Libby played extremely hard the whole game, but she never got a break. That's just the game of basketball."
After racing out to a 6-0 lead, Butte led throughout before Seaman's bucket in the paint gave Hellgate its first lead, 30-29 with 30 seconds remaining in the third quarter. That lead was short lived as Witt answered with a trey to give the Bulldogs a 32-30 lead at the end of three.
Seaman's put-back with 5:30 left in the fourth gave the Knights their only other advantage of the evening.
Olson believed that with thoughts of facing top-ranked Missoula Sentinel on Saturday, maybe his squad wasn't focusing on the task at hand.
"I just don't think I prepared them enough to be mentally ready for this one," said Olson. "Either way, I'm just real proud of the girls for how hard they played the whole game."
For Arnston and the Bulldogs, the next challenge is at Missoula Big Sky on Saturday. But for a moment, he'll enjoy this visit to the Garden City.
"It was a nice victory for us and a good one for the kids," Arnston said. "We're just going to try and keep it going from here."
Butte 16 9 7 6 4 11 - 53
Hellgate 11 8 11 8 4 7 - 49
BUTTE - Mandi Arnston 2 1-2 5, Kristi Witt 4 10-15 20, Ashley Zimpel 0 0-0 0, Sarah Ueland 4 5-7 13, Katie Daly 6 1-2 13, Amber Davies 1 0-1 2, Katie Hafer 0 0-0 0, Demetra Davis 0 0-0 0 Savanna Maldanado 0 0-0 0 Totals 17 17-27 53.
HELLGATE - Libby Zinke 6 3-4 17, Krysta Campbell 3 1-3 7, Ashleigh Van Fossen 1 0-0 2, Brittany Hall 1 0-0 2, Annie Seaman 6 2-3 14, Kamie Burnett 0 0-0 0, Lauren Jones 0 1-2 1, Alana Bahe 2 0-0 6. Totals 19 7-12 49.
3-point goals - Butte 2 (Witt 2), Hellgate 4 (Zinke 2, Bahe 2). Rebounds - Butte 18 (Ueland 5, Daly 5), Hellgate 26 (Zinke 9, Seaman 8). Total fouls - Butte 15, Hellgate 22. Fouled out - Zimpel, Ueland.