Belgrade girls basketball 2

Belgrade senior Hazel Eaton dives for the ball in front of Great Falls’ Morgan Sunchild on Thursday in the Belgrade Special Events Center.

Belgrade has struggled offensively thus far, and scoring has been a point of emphasis in practice. Saturday afternoon, the team displayed growth over the past couple weeks.

Eight players scored and the Panthers trailed just 18-14 at halftime in an Eastern AA game on the road. While Great Falls CMR pulled away in the second half to post a 52-31 victory, first-year head coach Erin Nolte was pleased with the effort.

“We played great defense in the first half,” she said. “Our offense, well it's getting better. We're getting stronger.”

Belgrade (1-5, 0-2 Eastern AA) did not allow a field goal in the second quarter — CMR scored two points on free throws by Allie Olsen — and trimmed a double-digit deficit to four.

The Rustlers pulled away in the second half, however. Lauren Lindseth scored nine of her team-high 14 points in the frame as CMR stretched the lead to 39-24 entering the fourth quarter.

“The second half we just kind of let up a little bit, and that's what kind of opened the door for them to come in,” Nolte said. “But our first half was really good, and our defense is looking good right now.”

Emily Funseth and Olsen also reached double figures for the Rustlers with 14 and 12 points, respectively.

Gracey Carter led Belgrade with six points while three players scored four points and three others finished with three.

“Today was a very good team effort. Everybody scored today,” Nolte said. “We've been working a lot on shooting and scoring, and they did a good job. They're still getting better, and those looks are getting more open.”

Belgrade returns home Tuesday for another conference game against Bozeman.

Colton Pool can be reached at cpool@dailychronicle.com or 406-582-2690. Follow him on Twitter @CPoolReporter.