HELENA — The narrative for Helena High boys basketball team's opener with Butte was the physicality of Tuesday night's season opener.
As expected, the Bengals and Bulldogs found themselves at a stalemate at the conclusion of the third quarter when Bulldogs senior Trevyn Roth sank a 3-pointer at the buzzer.
The physical contest was something that Bulldogs coach Luke Powers fully expected.
"When you come to play Helena High, they get after you man-to-man and they pressure you, but we try to do the same things defensively," Powers said. "Helena High just made more free throws and shots. Both teams played pretty good defense in an uptempo game."
Helena took over in the fourth quarter, and the Bulldogs started to experience attrition from the physical contest in which 42 fouls were committed between the two teams.
The Bengals won the contest, outscoring the Bulldogs 25-11 in the fourth period.
Helena out-rebounded the Bulldogs 29-19, a category in which both teams excelled headed into the fourth quarter.
Bengals coach Brandon Day credited his team for elevating their play in the fourth quarter.
"I would like to say that I made all kinds of adjustments," Day said. "However, the reality is that I just challenged the boys to step up. They stepped up and played well in the fourth quarter."
The Bulldogs also struggled to contain Bengals junior guard Logan Brown and Connor Murgel, who were responsible for 30 of the team's 65 points in the contest. Brown finished with 18 points and Murgel had 12.
"Murgel, Johnson and Hayden Ferguson are all tough," Powers said. "Helena High does a great job, and I think they will be one of the teams that come out of the west. Our team came out tight and nervous in the first half, but in the second half we settled down in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, we lost the rebounding battle, and that was the difference."
The Bengals had trouble containing Bulldogs star scorer Clay Ferguson. The senior guard accounted for half of Butte's points, dropping a team-leading 25 points.
Day, whose team responded to his fourth-quarter challenge, said he felt the difference in the game was the level of experience. Helena has seven seniors on its roster and made 60 percent of the field goals.
"They are a strong bunch of boys, and it showed out when they were fighting for rebounds," Day said.
According to Powers, the big difference was rebounding. Tommy Mellot, Butte's best defender according to Powers, suffered a late-game injury, which also changed the dynamics of the game.
"We had three or four minutes were we gave them second chances," Powers said. "Ninety-nine times out of 100, the team that wins the rebounding battle is going to win the game."