BC boys complete sweep of Copperheads

Butte Central's Nate McGree goes up for a shot after getting a rebound in front of Anaconda's Trent Mikalatos Saturday night at the Maroon Activities Center. (Bill Foley photo)

By Derek Hendrickson

The rematch of a close game in December exceeded all expectations and for the second time this season Butte Central defeated the Anaconda Copperheads in a game that was decided in the closing minutes, 44-42.

The game was almost identical to the first matchup as the teams went back and forth, trading momentum swings and taking back the lead only to see the other match the intensity then raise the level higher.

The fourth quarter saw Central start with a seven point edge and after the teams traded buckets Anaconda’s defense “triangle and 2” got their offense kick started.

Butte Central Head Coach Brodie Kelly spoke about the new looks his team saw and his faith in the players, saying “That was a function of the defense they played, no one has run a triangle and two against us, it’s a different creature to attack, we’ve played against it in practice but not in a game, it takes some time to figure out where to be. I think what our guys did a nice job of was not forcing things. The thing that we’ve tried to do as a coaches is to keep instilling confidence and to believe and trust in our guys to take the shots they want when they want them.”

The Copperheads were using this approach to take away Central’s top scorers and it worked to keep them close but in the fourth they finally timed some steals and got easy lay ins to go on a 9-0 run to make it 39-37.

Kelly talked about the game in general and the late run by Anaconda after the win, saying “It was a dogfight, we knew it was going to be. That run they made at the end, we kind of set them up for that offensively, got a little excessive holding the basketball up on top when we should’ve been looking to continue to score, got on our heels and led them with a couple runouts, not even giving ourselves a chance to get defensive stops. To their credit they got out on us and a lot of their points were in transition, they were getting out ahead of us, we’ve got to do a better job stopping that.”

The possession of the game came with it tied at 39. The Maroons got the ball down low but couldn’t convert but came up with 3 straight offensive rebounds before Sam Johnston finally found his way in for a contested layup that put Central ahead to stay.

“That last possession, there was a lot of hustle,” Kelly said when talking about the pivotal play that gave Central the lead back. “I think we got three offensive rebounds, just an absolutely huge possession.”

The Copperheads couldn’t score their next time down and scrambled on defense, leaving Cole Harper a crease to the hoop and he made the basket and one to push Central’s lead to 5. Anaconda got a three at the buzzer for the final points.

Much like the first game the Maroons carved out an early lead, shaking off a sluggish start and then going up my nine, ignited by a six point trip down the court.

The sequence started with Nate McGree drawing 6’5″ sophomore Trent Mikalotos’ second first quarter foul. Mikalotos showed his frustration and slammed the ball into the court and was called for a technical and his third personal, sitting him down for the rest of the half. McGree made his two for the foul, Cole Harper sank 2 more for the T and Tanner Kimp converted a drive after Central inbounded to make it 13-4 after one.

In the Snakepit on December 17 the Maroons built a ten point lead at half only to see Anaconda chip away before taking their first lead in the fourth. The fans that packed the MAC Saturday didn’t have to wait that long for the drama to start.

Sophomore Braxton Hill ratcheted up the aggression to open the second, continuously driving to the hoop and clawing the Copperheds back into the game. Hill pumped in 11 of his team high 16 in the quarter and gave Anaconda their first lead on a three that made it 19-18.

Central finished the first half up 21-19, hitting 3 of 4 free throws and also adding to Anaconda’s foul trouble when senior starter Rico Ungaretti picked up his third late.

The third quarter continued to see the lead change hands before senior Tyler Kump provided a spark much like he did Thursday in Stevensville. This time his triple gave Central a 5 point advantage at 30-25. Tanner Kump added a three before McGree went coast to coast, making it 35-28 heading to the fourth and setting up the final theatrics.

Kelly specifically praised the efforts of his senior role player who has started to make his presence felt recently. “I want to give Tyler Kump credit too for coming in, we needed someone to break the ice and he did it the other night too, just came in and knocked a shot down to kinda get us going.”

Mikalotos rebounded nicely from his first half frustrations to chip in 2 for the Copperheads, 10 in the second half and 8 in the third. He and Hill were the only Copperheads to score more than 6 for the game.

Central was led by McGree’s 16, all of which seemed to be high degree of difficulty scores. Tanner  added 12, Johnston had 6 to go along with the task of guarding Hill, Harper had 5, Tyler Kump 3 and Riley Richardson added 2 to round out Central’s scoring.

The Maroons improve to 8-3 with the the non-conference win against their longtime rival and are now 3-0 playing outside of Class A, two against the Copperheads and a win at Helena High.

Central will partake in another non-conference game Tuesday evening when they travel to face the Belgrade Panthers at 7:30, immediately following the Lady Maroons’ game.

ANACONDA (8-4) — Caleb Stetzner 2 0-2 4, Ricco Ungaretti 0 1-3 1, Trent Mikalatos 5 0-0 12, Sean Gallagher 2 0-0 6, Braxton Hill 6 3-4 14, Kayne Cobban 0 0-0 0, Kayne Bryant 0 0-0 0, Kaden Stetzner 0 0-0 0. Totals 14 4-9 42.
BUTTE CENTRAL (8-3) — Sam Johnston 2 2-2 6, Nate McGree 5 6-10 16, Cole Harper 1 3-3 5, Tanner Kump 4 2-2 12, Riley Richardson 1 0-0 2, Cade Holter 0 0-3 0, Archie Petritz 0 0-0 0, Tyler Kump 1 0-0 3. Totals 14 13-20 44.
Anaconda                   4          15        9          11 — 42
Butte Central            13        8          14        9 — 44

3-point goals — Anaconda 4 (Mikalatos 2, Gallagher 2, Hill 1), BC 3 (Tanner Kump 2, Tyler Kkump 1). Fouls — Anaconda 18, BC 12. Fouled out — none. Technical — Mikalatos.

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