BUTTE — Butte Central was bound and determined to break the streak.
Coming into the City Championship in the midst of a three-game drought against the Butte High boys’ basketball team, there was a sense that this might be the year it was snapped. From the second the ball tipped, the Maroons played with a type of controlled intensity they’ve been able to tap into at various points this season.
The Bulldogs were able to respond for most of the first half, but cold shooting and efficient offense from Central ultimately lead to a 57-39 Maroons win.
“I’m really happy for our guys,” Central boys head coach Brodie Kelly said. “This game is far more about the kids than the coaches. They prepared hard and played extremely hard.
“They really wanted this one and I could see that in them today.”
Dan McCloskey scored 19 points for the Maroons, the most he’s tallied in a single game this season. Luke Heaphy had 10 and was the only other Central player with double figures in what was a balanced scoring attack.
Central made seven three-pointers on the night, including a game-high three from Heaphy.
“Luke Heaphy made a lot of great plays for us tonight, some great shots and great decisions with the ball,” Kelly said. “He played with a lot of confidence to start the game, really focused. He was kind of our floor leader out there.”
The Bulldogs, meanwhile, struggled from behind the arc, hitting going just 2-of-23 on three-pointers on the night. It was due in part to the stingy Central defense that had a significant height advantage. Lanky forwards Jared and Matt Simkins as well as Aaron Richards made life difficult for the Bulldogs, who didn’t start a player taller than 6-foot-2.
“We had multiple looks that we’re incredibly capable of making and we just couldn’t get them to go down. That’s the story of the game,” Butte boys head coach Luke Powers said. “The way they played defense, it’s a zone variation of a man, packing them in like that.
“You’re gonna have to hit a jumper to bring them out and we didn’t do that tonight.”
Central led 24-17 at halftime and allowed just four points in the third quarter to put the game away. Powers called three timeouts during that quarter to help calm his players down, but they could not get anything easy.
The Maroons also came out of halftime with the same energy they opened the game with, which certainly helped put the game away.
“We were trying to contain there dribble, but that was easier said than done,” Kelly said. “There shots were opening up out there and they were playing with five guards and they were quick and hard to stay in front of. We were just really trying to stay down and help on them.”
The win moves Central to 8-1, while the Butte falls to 1-6.
It certainly is frustrating for Powers, who is preaching patience to his players.
“We have to stay together and trust the process,” Powers said. “I said at the beginning of the year to the kids that we have to fall in love with the process of improvement. That’s so easy to say, but it’s hard to do when you’re struggling.
“I have to be better, we have to shoot better and we have to stay in it together.”