Bozeman coach Brad Rustan's pregame message to his team was a bit more prophetic than he wanted it to be.
"I told them, 'I'll be happy if you go out there and make a bunch of shots, but if we don't, then if you go out there and defend and rebound, then you've got a chance,' " Rustan said after the Lady Hawks did exactly those things in beating Billings Senior 46-38 Friday night at the Senior gym. "I wish we would have made a whole lot more shots. But I'm happy because of the rebounding and defensive effort."
Bozeman didn't make a lot of shots - just 16 of 44 for 36 percent - but what little offense the Lady Hawks got stood up because of a 39-24 rebounding advantage and a defensive effort that gave few easy looks to the Lady Broncs.
Kellie Cole scored 19 points for Bozeman to lead all scorers and Alexa Dawkins added 10 points. Dawkins also had a game-high eight rebounds as the Lady Hawks scored 14 second-chance points.
Senior made just 13 of 41 shots (32 percent) and went into its worst offensive droughts of the game just when the Lady Broncs seemed poised to take the momentum.
Bozeman led 17-7 with 2:22 to play in the first half, but a 10-3 Senior run, culminated by a Casey Kennedy 3-pointer at the halftime buzzer, pulled the Lady Broncs to within 20-17.
Emily Carroll and Kathryn Newman each gave Senior one-point leads early in the third quarter, but after another Newman basket got Senior to within 29-28 at the 2:16 mark, the Lady Broncs didn't make another field goal until 2:56 remained in the game, nearly an eight-minute span.
Newman, who scored two points in the first half, finished with a team-high 12 for the Lady Broncs. Carroll added 11, but it wasn't enough to keep Senior from dropping its sixth straight game.
Bozeman (8-3 overall, 4-1 Eastern AA) made just 8 of 18 free throws in the fourth quarter, which allowed Senior to stay close. But the Lady Broncs were just 2-for-12 from the floor in the quarter and couldn't take advantage.
"What we take away from this game is it's a conference win on the road," Rustan said. "So you have to be happy with that. It might not have been as smooth as I would have liked, but there were a lot of flashes there."
Senior (4-8, 1-5) plays at home tonight against Hardin at 7:30. The game is Senior's last home game until Feb. 27-28 when the Lady Broncs play host the Great Falls schools.