BUTTE — We want Bella. We want Bella.
Butte Central coach Meg Murphy can still hear the chants, from both the Butte High and Butte Central student sections, during the crosstown city championship at the Butte Civic Center on Feb. 11, 2016.
Murphy looked down the bench and told freshman Bella Sorini to sub in. After a timeout, Bella got her introduction, a moment better felt by the eruption of cheer in the Civic Center.
“What I distinctly remember is the Butte High kids and all the people in the place chanting, ‘Put Bella in,’ and, ‘Put Bella in.’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, we got to put her in. We got to put her in,'” Murphy said.
Three days prior, Bella’s father, Peter Sorini, passed away after a 14-month battle with a brain tumor. The Butte community donned blue ‘Sorini Strong’ apparel to show Bella and her family that they weren’t going to go through this alone.
“People came into our home while we were gone and decorated it,” said Bella’s mom, Stephanie Sorini. “We had food every night for over a year. People just gave so much of themselves to try making our lives a little bit easier.”
With time, healing came for Bella and the Sorini family. Basketball was a common love she and her father shared, and, because of that, Bella never feels alone when she steps on the court.
“I know he’s still here and, I mean, even something so small like my ‘Sorini Strong’ bracelet, every time I look down I know I can get through anything just by believing and being ‘Sorini Strong,'” Bella said.
And it was that ‘Sorini Strong’ attitude that led to one of the best moments in crosstown history.
“Next thing I knew, Abby Dodge comes out of nowhere and fouls Bella, and I just think that was probably the coolest thing that I had watched in a long time,” Murphy said.
Bella stepped to the free throw line and sank her shot.
“It was definitely something I’ll tell my kids about when I’m older,” Bella said. “It’s still something that gets brought up, and I always just look back on it — seeing how I was a freshman, then knowing my dad was there in spirit.”
Bella’s toughness got put to the test once again. After a surgery to help correct issues associated with her life-long battle with cleft feet, her recovery period was hit with a huge setback. When Bella got back on the court, she suffered a sprained ACL.
But Bella Sorini never gave up. Being able to step on the court for her dad pushed her to her absolute limits.
“This year watching her, it is just amazing because I know she’s in pain, but she’s battling through it,” Murphy said. “And to watch her these last two weeks, it’s fun. It’s just amazing.”
“Really, she has that strength, and this is a game she loved to play with her dad, so I truly feel there’s part of that in her that keeps her going,” Stephanie added.
Bella will be attending the University of Montana this upcoming fall.