HART — It didn’t take three overtimes this time, but Hart and Montague played another hard-fought game Thursday night. The Wildcats again came out on top in a 44-37 final score.

Although the Wildcats led for all but less than a minute of the game — Hart briefly led 21-19 and 31-30, but Montague immediately responded with a basket both times — the game was an all-out battle most of the way. Almost literally so, as contact was plentiful and girls were hitting the deck often.

In the end, though, Hart’s offense couldn’t quite keep up with a potent Montague group.

“They let us play,” Hart coach Travis Rosema said. “Both teams had the same officials and they let us play.

“Since I’ve been coaching, for three years, our defense keeps us in games. We have to score better...We have to find a way to, when teams take our stuff away, we have to find a way to score outside of that.”

Montague swarmed Jayd Hovey whenever she had the ball, but the Pirates hung in there with their defense and a few timely shots. Aspen Boutell led the team with 10 points, and her banked-in three-pointer tied the score up at 19 late in the second quarter. A go-ahead basket on the next possession capped a 16-5 scoring run by Hart.

The Pirates ran out of juice late, though, watching a few key shots rim out and not being able to reel in enough rebounds. A key play saw Boutell fall down and Montague’s Braquelle Osborne break free for an open three-pointer, her only field goal of the game, to put Montague up 38-34 with three minutes to go.

Rosema put some of Hart’s struggles on himself, saying the Pirates have been unable to put any new offense in, which made them easier for Montague to guard.

“We’re trying to come up with something different and put something different in, but we were kind of one-dimensional,” Rosema said. “That falls on me more than the girls. Even when we did have chances, we started slow and we didn’t execute.”

However, the Pirates’ season motto — ‘doesn’t matter, get better’ — continues to guide how they approach things, and that includes tough losses. There is no official conference title this year due to the short season, a decision made above Rosema’s pay grade (and one he makes no secret of disagreeing with), so Hart will soldier on and continue to focus on the ‘get better’ half of that motto.

“We want to win, but our goals are bigger than a regular-season game in conference,” Rosema said. “Hopefully we can get them playing well together at the end of the season, get a district title again, and go from there.”

MONTAGUE (44) Zamojcin 7 7-8 21, Hall 2 0-0 4, B. Osborne 1 1-3 4, Flynn 1 0-0 3, K. Osborne 2 0-0 5, C. Meacham 1 1-3 3, Koetje 2 0-0 4. Totals 16 9-14 44.

HART (37) Noggle 2 1-2 5, Marvin 3 1-2 7, Copenhaver 1 0-0 2, VanAgtmael 0 2-2 2, Hovey 2 1-2 5, Boutell 3 2-4 10, Williamson 2 0-0 6. Totals 13 7-12 37.

Montague....14 7 8 15 — 44

Hart............. 5 16 6 10 — 37

Three-point goals — Montague 3 (B. Osborne, Flynn, K. Osborne), Hart 4 (Boutell 2, Williamson 2). Total fouls — Montague 10, Hart 13. JV score — Hart 40, Montague 32.