Flathead kept undefeated Helena High uncomfortable until the final minutes, but the Bengals pulled away for a 49-32 victory over the Bravettes in a Western AA girls basketball clash on Friday night at Flathead High School.
Helena (10-0 overall, 4-0 Western AA) came out pushing the pace and built an early 10-3 lead. But Flathead (5-4, 1-2) refused to back down, clamping down defensively and burying multiple 3-pointers to go on a 9-0 run and take a 12-10 lead into the second quarter.
“I thought we were more aggressive than they were in the first half,” Flathead coach Tricia Dean said.
“At times we moved the ball really well, and at times we were really aggressive to the basket.”
The second quarter was a more defensive struggle. The Bengals reclaimed the lead early, and the Bravettes went on a quick 5-0 run to tie the game at 18, capped off by Kayla Martin burning the Bengals defense with a beautiful drive in the paint.
But Flathead’s leading scorer Taylor Henley was called for her third foul with 1:36 left in the half. Dean called Henley’s foul trouble a “huge” factor in the game.
“She’s so strong offensively and defensively for us and in transition. She’s obviously kind of our only girl with size,” Dean said.
“But I thought a few other girls really stepped up.”
Dean called on Bridget Crowley to guard Jamie Pickens, the Bengals’ top scorer and a University of Montana-commit. This was Crowley’s first significant varsity time.
“We said go be physical and get after it, and I thought she did really well so that was really cool to see from her,” Dean said.
Pickens was called for her third and fourth fouls just a few minutes into the third quarter, but that was after the Bengals opened the frame on a quick 7-0 run. The Bravettes came back again to tie the game at 25, then the Bengals’ Paige Aasved scored seven consecutive points, including two treys, which gave Helena a 32-25 lead going into the final quarter.
Aasved led all scorers with 16 points.
Flathead kept the game within reach, but Pickens hit a dagger 3-pointer halfway through the final frame to extend Helena’s lead to 10.
The Bravettes struggled offensively in the second half, managing just 14 points. Dean said the team went away from being aggressive toward the basket and was settling for too many outside shots.
“We struggled a bit with our ball movement in the second half as well, and they kind of amped up their pressure defensively,” she said.
“I felt like we could have gotten a few more post touches, or at least some in-and-out action happening.”
With just under four minutes to go, Henley made a heads-up steal, was fouled on her fast-break layup and hit the free throw to trim the lead to seven. But that was all the scoring the Bravettes could muster.
“That’s a really good team ... I’m sure they’re the best team in the state,” Dean said.
“So I think to have success like we did against them should be a confidence builder for our group, that we can play with anyone in our league, let alone in the state.”
Henley paced the Bravettes with 13 points, and Maddie Walter added nine points with her three triples.
Flathead is back in action today hosting Helena Capital at 2:45.
Helena High 10 8 14 17 – 49
Flathead 12 6 7 7 – 32
HELENA – Paige Aasved 16, Payton Aasved 4, Vanessa Walsh 8, Emily Feller 7, Jamie Pickens 14.
FLATHEAD – Sadie Wilson 1, Maddie Walter 9, Kaysie Malmin 4, Jenna Johnson 3, Kayla Martin 2, Taylor Henley 13.