The Butte Central and Polson boys' basketball teams spent Saturday morning battling for a trip to the State Class A third-place game.
In the end, the Pirates defeated the Maroons, 62-59, in overtime and put an end to Butte Central's season at the Butte Civic Center.
The Maroons finished a roller-coaster type of season with a 14-11 mark but it was a season that had considerably more upswing in the second half.
“I’m really proud of this team,” Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly said. “I really hope our fans and supporters are as proud as I am.
"When we were sitting at 3-6 in January, I don’t think there were many people who expected us to be playing in the state semifinals.”
Polson beat Butte Central by 11 points in the Western A Divisional Tournament but Saturday's rematch was much tighter until the final seconds.
Polson jumped out to an early lead in overtime, scoring on a field goal and pair of free throws but the Maroons eventually tied the score on two Sam Johnston free throws with 1:30 left to play.
The Pirates hit two more free throws, but Butte Central senior Nate McGree answered with free throws that tied the score at 59-all with 45 seconds left.
As the Pirates pushed the ball down the floor, the Maroons were called for a foul. Polson's Jaydon Bautista made his shots with 27 seconds remaining.
Butte Central sent Polson to the mercy stripe one final time and the Pirates pulled away for the narrow win.
The Maroons were led by McGree, who had 13 points and four rebounds. Senior Tanner Kump chipped in with 11 points and two rebounds. Butte Central shot 43 percent from the field and was 70 percent at the free-throw line.
Saturday’s loss was the final chapter in Butte Central’s up-and-down season. The Maroons won their first two games of the season before hitting a five-game losing streak. Kump said that the rough stretch served as a wakeup call for the Maroons.
“We really just came together and talked about it,” Kump said. “We knew that we had to do whatever we could to fix it. We had to change our mentality going into each game. We just had to keep playing for each other and keep fighting.”
The Maroons went 0-2 in the state tournament last year. Butte Central opened the tournament this year with a win against the Belgrade Panthers, a team it lost to twice during the regular season. The Maroons advanced to the semifinals for the eighth time in 13 years, but were defeated by the highly-favored and unbeaten Dillon Beavers.
Butte Central will lose four seniors to graduation but there are several underclassmen waiting in the wings. The Maroons switched to an eight-an rotation during the season, one which included three freshmen and a sophomore. The Simkins brothers scored valuable buckets in the post and the other underclassmen were catalysts during the tournament.
So while the season ends on a loss, Kelly is looking forward to the future.
“It’s a credit to the young kids, but it’s also really a credit to those seniors too,” he said. “They provided great leadership and embraced the younger guys. They played as hard as they could and really set good examples for the young guys.”