By Derek Hendrickson
The Butte Central Maroons boys’ basketball team overcame a sluggish first half and pulled away behind a dominant second half defense performance to earn a Southwestern Conference win over the Corvallis Blue Devils 50-27 Saturday afternoon at The Maroon Activities Center.
The Blue Devils were able to hang around due to playing methodically on offense, patiently waiting for open looks and limiting the number of possessions, which resulted in a five-point difference going into the break at 23-18.
Maroon head coach Brodie Kelly was asked what changed from first half to second, answering, “Much better on ball activity. The first half, Corvallis, give them credit, they execute their stuff extremely well. I thought our on ball defense was backed off, on our heels a little bit which allowed them to run some really long possessions which led to some open shots. I felt like in the second half our guys did a much better job of putting pressure on the basketball, having their hands active and making things difficult on them.”
Whatever Kelly said to the boys at halftime certainly worked as the Maroons stymied the Blue Devils over the final 16 minutes by only allowing nine points to help Central bust open a big lead in the third quarter, similarly to the game Thursday night against Butte High.
Central also started to get clicking on offense as they quickly put up the first seven points of the third quarter to finally create some cushion. Luke Heaphy got an and one before Dan McCloskey and Aaron Richards drained four straight free throws.
Kobe Jessop briefly ended the onslaught with a bucket, but McCloskey hit a three to get those points back. Ridge Albright got two back before Matt Simkins hit a free throw to send the Maroons to the fourth up 12 at 34-22.
Any hope of a potential comeback from the Blue Devils was immediately squashed as Heaphy got another hoop and the harm followed by a Richards bucket to push the lead to 17.
The Blue Devils would get it back down to 13, but Central put in another eight straight with buckets from Holter, Matt Simkins and two in a row by Richards.
The first quarter was a stalemate at 10 as the teams traded the lead several times with neither leading by more than two points.
Central pushed the lead to six briefly but Corvallis had their best offensive possession when Zach Jessop and Ryan Wiggins both collected a pair of offensive boards to set up Caeson Jessop’s three. Heaphy got a layup to fall with under a second left to make it 23-18 heading to the half.
Braden Harrington came in and swished a three on a feed from fellow sophomore Trevor Neumann to close out the Maroon scoring.
Central was paced by Richards, who scored 12, half coming in the fourth quarter. McCloskey cracked double figured with 10. Heaphy was next in line on a balanced scoresheet with eight, Matt Simkins put in seven, Dylan Sestrich pitched in six, Cade Holter added four to go with Harrington’s three. Jared Simkins also logged minutes for the Maroons.
Kelly pointed out Sestrich as someone he has seen flashes from recently, saying “Dylan’s got some tools, he can do so many things with the basketball, as soon as he believes in himself, the sky is the limit for him. The kid, he can shoot, he can drive, he can pass, he made some huge plays for us.”
The win pushed Central’s record to 9-1 on the season and 4-1 in the Southwestern A. Corvallis, who definitely presented as being better than their record, which falls to 1-9 overall and 0-5 in conference.
Kelly reflected a bit as the regular season portion of the schedule is just past the midway point.
“This was the first time we got through that Butte High, Dillon, Livingston stretch 3 and 0,” he said. “We’ve never done that before. It’s also important for us to know how difficult these games have been to win, there has not been a lot of separation. It’s so important that we keep improving and our guys know we have a lot of room to improve. I like the way that we are playing but you still see some sloppy passes here and there, you see some missed layups, we haven’t been shooting the ball particularly well, which is a good sign that we are able to win when we’re not shooting well.”
The Maroons have enjoyed a lot of home cooking to this point but will hit the road next weekend for back-to-back games at Frenchtown and Stevensville on Friday and Saturday.
Kelly was asked about next weekend’s slate and is looking forward to the challenge as the season wears on.
“That’s tournament play,” he said of playing on consecutive nights. “It’s a good test to prepare us for tournament play. The schedule, I’ve said it before, is a grind. We are playing some really good basketball teams. There is only one team that we haven’t seen yet and that’s Anaconda and we know they are tough and we are playing them down there later in the year. The next eight games are going to present that challenge that’s going to force us to be tested and hopefully be at our best, keep improving and figuring out what we need to fix by the end of the year. But yeah, playing in Frenchtown Friday and turning around and going to Stevi, yeah, we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us again.”
CORVALLIS (1-9, 0-5) — Caleb Warnken 1 1-2 3, Ridge Albright 2 0-0 5, Caeson Jessop 3 0-0 8, Ryal Jessop 2 0-0 6, Ryan Wiggins 0 0-2 0, Kobe Jessop 1 0-0 2, Garrett Brown 1 1-2 3. Totals 10 2-6 27.
BUTTE CENTRAL (9-1, 4-1) — Jared Simkins 0 0-0 0, Luke Heaphy 3 2-3 8, Matt Simkins 3 1-2 7, Dan McCloskey 3 3-4 10, Dylan Sestrich 3 0-0 6, Cade Holter 2 0-1 4, Aaron Richards 4 4-6 12, Braden Harrington 1 0-0 3, Trevor Neumann 0 0-0. Totals 19 10-17 50.
Corvallis 11 7 8 20 — 39
Butte Central 16 10 10 16 — 46
3-point goals — BC 2 (McCloskey, Harrington), Corvaillis 5 (C Jessop 2, R Jessop 2, Albright). Fouls — BC 9, Corvallis 15. Fouled out —None. Technicals — none. Turnovers — BC 12, Corvallis 14. Rebounds — BC 26 (Richards 7), Corvallis (Brown, Wiggins 5). Blocks — BC 2 (Matt Simkins, Holter), Corvallis 2 (Brown, Wiggins). Assists — BC 10 (Heaphy 3), Corvallis 5 (Brown 2).