On Jan. 14, I broke one of my cardinal rules. I left a game before it was over.

Butte Central’s varsity girls’ basketball team trailed Stevensville 30-21, and the game did not appear to be going anywhere near the way of the Maroons when I walked out the door at halftime.

I did not leave the game for that reason, though. Normally, I stay to watch any game until the end, no matter the score.

On this night, though, I just refereed the freshman and junior varsity games, and I was a little tired. Also, and more importantly, my daughter was heading to Missoula the next day to begin her second semester of her freshman year at the University of Montana. I wanted to go home and watch a few episodes of Family Guy with her.

As I watched Peter Griffin, I got a text message from Bruce Sayler asking about Butte Central’s school record for points in a game. I knew off the top of my head that it belonged to the great Kellie Johnson-Mead because I had to look it up a week earlier when Brooke Badovinac scored 38 points.

Johnson scored 42 points in a 75-67 Butte Central loss at Whitehall on Friday, Nov. 8, 1996. That came shortly before the senior signed to play at Illinois State.

Badovinac, Bruce told me, scored 41 points, but they were still adding up the scorebook.

So, I texted K.J. to tell her that her record, which is also a single-game high school record for boys and girls in Butte, that the young Bado nearly took her down.

Knowing that records are made to be broken, as they say, K.J. was happy for her fellow Maroon. 

“That is SO awesome,” she replied, with a handful of exclamation points following.

After a review of the book, it turned out Badovinac actually had 42 points to tie the record.

So, I texted K.J. once again. Again, K.J. was happy.

“I’m sure proud of her!” K.J. texted. “I hope she does beat it! Great kid! Great athlete. Great student. She deserves it.”

Nobody would know better than K.J., a long-time coach who owns BC’s career record with 1,530 points, according to the late Pat Kearney. Her 485 points used to be the school record for a season.

When I left the game, it did not seem like Badovinac’s night. A few well-meaning fans were yelling at her to shoot more as the Maroons struggled to hang with the Yellowjackets.

After halftime, there must have been something different. Badovinac scored 19 of BC’s 20 points in the third quarter. Counting the six points she scored in overtime, Badovinac scored 35 points after the break.

That has to be a record.

After the game, though, Badovinac did not seem to care about tying K.J.’s record.

“We tried our hardest and we still lost,” she told Sayler for a story on Butte Sports. “I tried my hardest and still lost. It sucks losing in overtime.”

Sayler’s story described Badovinac as “solemn” after the loss. That word could aptly describe her after every victory, too.

Badovinac is stoic at all times. If she is ever nervous during a game, it does not show. She never gets too excited, and she never gets too down.

If you talk to after a game, you would never know if her team had just won or lost. She is like a golfer who could have shot a 63 or a 97.

That is what makes her so dangerous on a basketball court.

Last year, when Badovinac was having arguably the best season of any high school player in the history of the Mining City, my brother said she has the demeanor of an assassin.

On the court, Badovinac is a cold-blooded killer. She is a quiet killer too.

So, the nickname the “Assassin” seems to fit her just perfectly.

Often after a game last season, someone would ask how many points Badovinac scored. “What she have, 16-18 points?”

No, she scored 35.

If there is such a thing as a quiet 35, the Badovinac scored it. Her 38 points a week earlier has to be the quietest 38 points ever scored.

It is hard to explain. She is not a ball hog by any stretch of the imagination. As the yells from the crowd would tell you, if anything, she should shoot the ball more.

She just seems to take advantage of every scoring opportunity.

Hopefully, that quietness and calmness does not hurt her when the all-time greats of Butte are mentioned years from now.

Last year, Badovinac scored 671 points on the season, and most of them were quiet. 

She is one of only three high school basketball players from Butte in the 600-point club for a single season. She is joined by BC great Joe Antonietti, who scored 638 points in 1969, and Central classmate Dougie Peoples, tossed in 629 points during BC’s run to the Class A State title last season.

During her junior season, Badovinac also moved past Butte High’s Debbie Silk (444 in 1981), Lexie Nelson (459 in 1982) and Deanna Dugdale (459 in 1982). Silk and Dugdale joined the Butte Sports Hall of Fame last summer.

Nelson will most likely do that one day, too.

Mollie Peoples (427 in 2017), Kloie Thatcher (417 in 2018) and Badovinac’s coach Quinn (Peoples) Carter (401 in 2011) are the only BC girls in the 400-point club.

Talk about some pretty great company.

After the record-tying performance, Badovinac had 214 points on the season. That is an average of 23.8 points per game through nine games.

The remarkable thing about that is that stopping Badovinac has been the sole focus of every opponent.  I have heard about players seeing the triangle-and-two defense, but I do not think I ever saw it until Corvallis came to town.

That defense means that two players guarded Badovinac the entire game, and the other three played a zone defense against her four BC teammates.

Those two Corvallis defenders were really on Badovinac, too. I am pretty sure they guarded her down the hallway to the locker room at halftime.

At one point, the BC coaches decided it was best to just have Badovinac stand in the corner and let her teammates try to take advantage of the extra player.

Selflessly, Badovinac went along. And somehow, she still scored a team-best 13 points in the 37-34 loss.

In November, Badovinac signed to play basketball for Montana Tech, giving Butte basketball fans four more seasons to watch one of our all-time greats.

While I am still glad that I got to catch a few episodes of Family Guy with my daughter, I hope my tale will serve as an example for others watching Badovinac in her final games with the Maroons and then with the Orediggers.

No matter what the score, never leave a basketball game before it is over.

That goes double for games in which the Assassin is playing.

— Bill Foley, who would have killed to score two points in a varsity game, can be reached at foles74@gmail.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74Listen to the ButteCast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.