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Butte Central's Emily St. John drives to the basket for a shot during Thursday's rivalry game agains Butte High in the Butte Civic Center.

Abby Dodge had to play one more time.

Despite having a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament, the Butte High senior told her parents and coach she had to play in her final City Championship girls basketball game.

Even with Dodge on the court, Butte Central breezed past the Bulldogs for a third straight year, 57-32, on Thursday evening in the Butte Civic Center.

The win came by Butte Central’s largest margin of victory in the rivalry, eclipsing its 18-point margin in 2015's win.

“A couple things that we’ve talked about all season long are getting some post play and then making sure we block out,” Butte Central coach Meg Murphy said. “Tonight is the best job we’ve done all season.

"Butte High goes to the boards hard. I thought our kids did a tremendous job of limiting them to one shot. I don’t think they had many second-chance points.”

The Maroons held a 27-14 lead when the second half began. Senior guard Emily St. John, who led Butte Central with 25 points, picked up where she left off by scoring her team's opening five points as the Bulldogs struggled from the field.

The Bulldogs hadn’t scored a field goal since the second quarter, though they found some points at the free throw-line. Dodge broke the 12-minute dry spell with a jumper in the closing 30 seconds of the third quarter. Sophomore Brittney Tierney added a late trey, but the Maroons led 44-20 entering the fourth.

The Butte Central duo of St. John and senior Mollie Peoples couldn’t be stopped in the final period. The backcourt combined for nine points as the Maroons closed out another rivalry victory.

Butte Central's Kloie Thatcher was another player who wasn’t expected on the court. The junior missed several games with a right knee injury, but she said she was cleared on Wednesday to play in the game.

“This is my favorite game, so I definitely did not want to miss it,” Thatcher said. “It’s really fun because you get to play in front of your whole town and it’s Butte Central versus Butte. … It’s been really tough to be on the bench and watch everything, so it’s good to be back. I was pretty excited when they said I could come back.”

The Maroons were led in scoring by St. John and Peoples with 13 points apiece. Peoples was held to one bucket in the first half, scoring 11 of her 13 after the break.

Butte Central finished 16-for-31 at the free-throw line and had 14 team fouls.

Butte High played one of its best quarters all season in the opening frame. After the Maroons put up five points, Bulldog sophomore Ally Cleverly hit a jumper and then a 3-pointer to pull within 8-5.

Junior Alissa Bernhardt then hit a jumper and a 3-pointer of her own in the final minute of the period to pull Butte High within 13-12.

During the second quarter, the Bulldogs ran into turnover trouble. Bernhardt hit another jumper 3 minutes into the frame, but it proved to be Butte High's final field goal of the half. Multiple turnovers in a row helped Butte Central pull away with an 11-0 run.

The Bulldogs played flat as the Maroons continued to hit shots. Even with a man-to-man defense and more height, Butte High couldn’t stop Central in the paint or at the arc. The Maroons' lead had grown to 13 by the end of the half.

The Bulldogs had 21 turnovers overall during the game.

“They played a heck of a game,” Butte High coach Maury Cook said. “They were prepared. They executed. We just again, we had that stretch where we turned the ball over like, it must have been 12 times in a row. We played a good first quarter, we were right there with them. But we got out there in the second quarter and turned the ball over.”

The Bulldogs were led by Cleverly's nine points, including a 2-for-4 effort on free throws. Dodge, who hasn’t played since the end of December, chipped in eight points.

Butte High had 23 team fouls.

Dodge, who is still being evaluated by doctors, was not expected to return to the court. The senior has a scholarship to the University of Montana to compete in track and field. But she said needed one last shot in a Bulldogs uniform in the rivalry.

“It’s my senior year, and with the way things have gone the last couple years it’s kind of been tough,” Dodge said. “This is the one game that really means a lot to me. It’s a great atmosphere and I didn’t want to miss it. It’s so cool, all of Butte is here. It’s just always been the rivalry, and is a game everyone looks forward to.”

The Maroons' next game is 4 p.m. Saturday at the Maroons Activities Center against Corvallis. Butte High’s next tilt is 7:30 p.m. on Jan. 20 against Billings Senior at the Civic Center.


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