By Dan Hardenbrook

Fly high, Lady Eagles basketball fans. The Engadine girls basketball team celebrated a breakthrough win Friday, never giving up and never letting up in a 41-27 win over the Rudyard Lady Bulldogs.

Hali Butkovich has had big games before, but it’s likely one of them felt this good. Butkovich carried the Lady Eagles all night long, putting up an incredible performance to help her team earn win number one. She finished her night with 30 points, outsourcing Rudyard on her own.

Twelve of those 30 came in a first quarter where Engadine played their best basketball of the season, building an early 14-4 lead. Then Engadine showed the effort and intensity that has become their trademark, hanging their hats on defense in a second quarter where they allowed just two total points. The Lady Eagles led big at halftime and had plenty of momentum in closing out the win.

Butkovich wasn’t alone in the Lady Eagles’ impressive performance. Jaeden Sistrunk had a career best game, scoring 8 points despite being outsized in several matchups with a bigger Bulldogs squad. Sistrunk’s grit and determination lit a fire under her teammates, and broke Rudyard’s back in a game where the Lady Bulldogs were also looking and expecting their first win of the season. This was Engadine’s night, however, and they weren’t going to be denied.

Kate Kovar added a bucket and Claire Oven also had a point in the win, which also allowed Engadine to pass Rudyard and move out of last place in the EUP Conference.

It was also the first official Varsity win for Head Coach Melissa Mallion, who is in her first season leading the program. Engadine has continued to show improvement, and heads into a tough stretch with games against strong teams.

The Lady Eagles struggled again Monday, falling to the Munising Mustangs, and also have future showdowns with state ranked St. Ignace, EUP leader Brimley, a rivalry rematch with an also improved Newberry team. Engadine gets another shot against Rudyard on the road. They’ll will be looking to pick up more wins, and experience for a young team that will all return and be back together next year.

But even if it was just one night, the Lady Eagles earned the right to fly as high as ever after last Friday.