The Butte High boys’ basketball team didn’t waste any time when it came to turning up the defensive pressure in Thursday’ night’s City Championship game at the Butte Civic Center.
Butte held Butte Central to one field goal in the game’s first quarter and rolled to a 46-36 triumph for its third straight win in the series.
Evan Anderson benefitted from the strong start and scored 11 of his game-high 17 points in the first quarter.
Butte Central connected on just one of 12 field goal attempts during that stretch. Tyge Yelinich delivered the team’s only field goal, coming off the bench to hit a 3-pointer with 37 seconds left to play. The quarter ended with the Bulldogs leading, 14-4.
“We were all excited coming in to the game,” Anderson said. “We knew we needed to start fast to get a win so it really gave us momentum knowing we had to come out fast like that.”
The Maroons did their best to regroup while the Bulldogs did their best to keep the pressure on. That was despite Butte’s big man Brock Powell spraining his left ankle midway through the first quarter.
The Bulldogs were focused on stopping, or at least slowing down, Nate McGree and Dan McCloskey, who have shown the ability to put up some big numbers this season.
“I think defensively we did such a nice job,” Butte coach Luke Powers said. “McGree scored 15 against Livingston (last week) and he had four points (Thursday). You look at McCloskey and he finishes with five. Those are their two leading scorers so it was a great total team defensive effort.”
Butte Central had a much better showing in the second quarter but Butte was able to keep the Maroons down by double-digits most of the way.
Central got a 3-pointer from McCloskey, which was in response to another 3-pointer from Anderson. Aaron Richards and McGree also scored field goals for the Maroons in the second frame. Central was able to cut its deficit to nine points on a couple of occasions but a rebound and putback from Austin Lee, with 9 seconds left, pushed the Bulldogs’ lead back to 25-14 at halftime.
“We didn’t not play a good first half and at halftime I felt like we were still in the game,” Maroons coach Brodie Kelly said. “I felt that if maybe we could make a few shots…it’s hard to really feel any momentum in a basketball game when you don’t put the ball in the hole. We just didn’t.
“That’s a credit to their defense and that’s also a fault of our own execution and right now a lack of self-belief.”
The last time that Butte Central was forced to play through a rough start was a few weeks ago in Belgrade. But unlike that game, the Maroons were able to stop the bleeding this time around.
Central’s defense put the clamps on Anderson, holding him to three points in the second half, but Powell picked up some of that slack. Powell went scoreless in the first half and scored all eight of his points in the second.
“Brock sprained his ankle in the first quarter and that really hurt a lot of the things that he was doing,” Powers said. “One of the things that it hurt was that he really couldn’t elevate to get rebounds. We got hurt a little bit there.
“Butte Central, boy they play hard. Every time there was a shot they were flying to the boards. They’re young but that’s a team that by the end of the year they’re going to be tougher than snot.”
Some of that toughness started to emerge toward the end of the game, after the Bulldogs stretched their lead to 41-20 after three quarters.
A 3 by Ryson Lovshin pushed Butte’s lead to 44-20 with 6:42 to play but that turned out to be the Bulldogs’ final field goal of the contest.
The Maroons outscored the Bulldogs, 16-2, the rest of the way, including a buzzer-beating halfcourt shot from Cade Holter to end the game. Holter led the Maroons with 11 points, eight of which came in the second half.
“Cade Holter, I thought played a scrappy game like he usually does,” Kelly said. “He gets his hands on the basketball and he always plays hard.”
Kelly was hoping that some momentum from last week’s win over Livingston – which snapped a five-game losing streak – would have carried over into Thursday. Now the Maroons will have to hope that a trip to Corvallis on Saturday can help get themselves back on track.
“I thought this would be a good, competitive basketball game,” Kelly said. “I feel like our team is underachieving and I feel that that responsibility is on me. And I feel like I’m not pushing the right buttons right now.”