BUTTE — For the first time since a Class AA boys basketball playoff game in 2012, Butte took down Bozeman, 50-46 on Tuesday night.
It was made free throws. It was steals. It was patient offense and an executed defense.
For third year coach Luke Powers, it was the little things.
“You’re going to beat basketball teams that you’re not supposed to beat, well, that they say you’re not supposed to beat, when you only turn the ball over three times and when you shoot it well from the free-throw line,” he said. “The little things.”
The Butte girls too ended a chapter in the school’s rivalry with Bozeman Tuesday night, winning 38-31 to end a five-year losing streak to the Hawks.
Little by comparison, the Butte boys' task against the AA No. 3 Hawks was to swarm 6-foot-9 center Mack Anderson every time the ball was lofted to him in the paint.
Anderson, who will suit up for the Montana Grizzlies next season, found himself under siege by a Bulldogs team made mostly of sophomores and juniors under 6 feet. He scored six points in the loss.
“That was a junk defense … the way we’ve ran it, you chase whoever is in the post, and we use it to just chase Mack Anderson. And why not? The kids a Division 1 athlete.” Powers said. “‘Hey you other guys gotta beat us tonight,' that was kind of the goal and there were times that they did, and there were times that they forced it to Mack a little bit and we had that covered up.”
“That’s the way most teams have been playing against us, he draws a lot of attention,” Bozeman coach Wes Holmquist said. “Bottom line.”
Butte (2-10, 1-6) faced a 38-30 hole heading into the fourth quarter. A pair of 3-pointers from Trevyn Roth and Kash Kelly on back-to-back steals brought the crowd to a roar and put the Bulldogs on a 15-4 run to see it 45-42 with two minutes to play.
“I feel like the crowd helped a lot actually, the momentum and everything made this a game changer,” said Clay Ferguson, whose 25 points were a game high. “Helped us concentrate, knock down shots. That’s what kind of helped us with free throws a bit.”
If the Bulldogs needed help hitting from the line, it didn’t show. Butte was 15 of 18 from the line, and Ferguson went 10 for 10, four of which came over the final 27 seconds.
The win ends a streak of eight loses to Bozeman (9-3, 4-2), Powers said.
It’s a starkly bitter pill for Bozeman to swallow, as the Hawks came into Butte atop the Eastern Division while Butte is in last.
“It’s varsity basketball, and you don’t play the games on paper,” Holmquist said. “Give a lot of credit to Butte, they played well tonight, that’s the best I’ve seen them play this year.
“They came out and just we were not ready to play. That’s my fault and I’m going to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”
The game got away from Butte in the second quarter, but the first had the Hawks on their heels. A slow, methodical offense netted 13 points against Bozeman’s 11, anchored by two 3-pointers from the corner by Roth on drawn out possessions.
Bozeman then begin to cede the ability to get Anderson the ball in the paint, and instead turned to 6-foot-5 junior Ryan Lonergan, who lead the Hawks to halftime with a 27-19 advantage.
Lonergan finished with a team-high 17 points.
“That shows our growth as a team,” Powers said on the Bulldogs’ second-half comeback. “We’re young. In the past we’ve gotten down 10 like that and we’ve gotten away from the game plan. Tonight we just stayed with it, stayed with it, stayed with it and showed what we could do.”