Every game feels like a roller coaster to Flathead girls basketball coach Tricia Dean.
She sees moments of potential and elements of a winning team, too often followed by dips that make her question if the peaks were some sort of illusion.
So it was again on Friday night, as the Bravettes faltered offensively in the final two quarters and allowed a halftime lead to slip away in a 39-31 loss to Butte at Flathead High School.
“We show flashes of a really good basketball team, but we’re just inconsistent right now so we kind of have those ups and downs throughout the game,” Dean said. “Unfortunately, it seems like in the second half is when we have the downs.”
The ups unquestionably came in the first half against the Bulldogs.
Led by junior forward Taylor Henley, Flathead (0-5) started strong and stretched its lead to as large as 17-8 in the second quarter.
Henley provided 11 of those first 17 points and accounted for all of a 6-0 run for the Bravettes to start the second. When she wasn’t slashing through Bulldog defenders to get to the hoop, she was fielding passes from teammates and scoring around the rim. No matter where she was, Henley was the centerpiece of the Flathead offense.
“She was a big threat offensively in the first half,” Dean said. “In my opinion, she can have 10, 12 points a night every game if she’s aggressive and gets to the hoop and finishes. She’s definitely talented enough and can do that.”
Henley’s impressive play bled over into the rest of the team, as well. The offense ran smoothly, for the most part, thanks to fluid ball movement and even spacing.
“They were really aggressive getting to the basket,” Dean said of her team in the first half. “Whether it be off the drive or working it into the high post and looking for the other big, kind of like some high-low action, I really liked that.”
A different group of Bravettes seemed to emerge from the locker room after halftime.
The offense grinded to a halt, and the defense that held Butte to 18 points in the first half began to show holes.
The Bulldogs kicked off the second half with an 8-0 run.
They grabbed the lead, fittingly, on a 3-pointer, the shot that kept them in the game in the first half. Butte knocked down a total of six shots from behind the arc in the game.
“We just weren’t executing as well,” Dean said. “They kind of got up and after us a little bit, tried to do a little trapping. Not that we panicked, but it was almost just like we tried to force things.”
Flathead scored the first four points of the fourth quarter to briefly retake the lead. But the Bravettes, playing without usual starters Maddie Walter and Averie Olson due to injury, ran out of gas at the end, and Butte closed the game on a 9-0 run.
Flathead now heads into the holiday break with hopes of returning in January a healthy and renewed team.
Despite the disappointment of the first five games, Dean still has hope her team can clean up its issues and get things turned around in conference play.
“From our first game of the year to here, I feel like we’ve gotten better, and that would be the goal,” she said. “Our hope is to just be more consistent. We’re going to play hard. We’re going to compete every game. That shouldn’t even be a question for us. Once we get past that and we’re consistent there, then we can start working on the little things.”
Butte 8 10 12 9 — 39
Flathead 11 9 7 4 — 31
BUTTE: Aspen Lovshin 2 2-2 7, Kira Mortensen 1 0-1 2, Ally Cleverly 4 0-0 11, Haley Herron 4 2-2 11, Brittany Tierney 3 1-2 8.
FLATHEAD: Emily Lembke 0 0-1 0, Mary Heaton 3 1-3 7, Clara Vandenbosch 4 2-3 12, Taylor Henley 5 2-3 12.