Butte High boys’ basketball coach Terry Hauser had mixed emotions Tuesday night.
His team played inspired basketball and gave the Bulldog faithful a glimpse of possibly good times to come.
The Bulldogs though, let one fall right through their fingernails, falling 64-61 to Helena High in a non-conference game at the Butte Civic Center.
“It’s hard because we should have won the game,” Hauser said. “Overall, though, I’m stoked. They played good. The team chemistry was great. They played with intensity.”
Butte High led most of the fourth quarter, and the game seemed in hand when Corey Farstveet grabbed a defensive rebound late.
The Bulldogs, though, turned the ball over. That directly led to a layup for Helena senior Troy Arntson for a go-ahead bucket with 21 seconds left.
Tyler Tolman then stole the inbounds pass, and Chase South hit two free throws to put the Bengals up 64-61 with 11.5 seconds.
Seconds later, some in the Butte High crowd thought senior Peter Granger tied the game with a 3-pointer. Butte High, though, called time out just ahead of the shot.
With 7.5 seconds on the clock during that timeout, Butte High drew up a play that didn’t quite go as planned, and junior Brian Smith missed an off-balance desperation 3-pointer.
Still, the night was more than impressive for Smith, who scored 17 of his game-high 19 points in the second half.
Smith hit four 3-pointers and scored 10 points in the final 3 minutes, 12 seconds of the third quarter to put the Bulldogs up 52-50 entering the fourth quarter. That run included a contested buzzer-beating 3-pointer.
Butte High led 59-54 after Smith drove to the hole for a bucket with 4:39 left.
Helena, like it did all night, rallied for a few quick buckets, and Garth Grimsrud capped a 6-0 lead off a nice pass from Arntson for a 60-59 advantage with 2:20 left.
Senior point guard Colten Billteen scored off a great pass by Farstveet to make it 61-60, and that looked like it would hold up. Two quick turnovers, though, ended that thinking.
Butte High ended the night with 20 turnovers, eight of which came in the first quarter that saw Helena take a 12-10 lead. The Bengals led 31-27 at the break.
Arntson scored 18 points to lead the Bengals, who are coached by Butte native John Mike Hollow. South tossed in 13, while Grimsrud, Henry Garrett and Derek Jenneskens each scored eight.
Dallas Cook poured in 16 for Butte High, which got 12 from Billteen in his first varsity start.
“Colten did a great job,” Hauser said. “It shows how hard he worked. He did an unbelievable job.”
Granger scored eight points, and Farstveet, Chase Kremer and Tucker Thatcher tossed in two apiece. Gabe McClafferty and Killian O’Leary also contributed for the Bulldogs, who head to Belgrade for a non-conference game on Saturday.
Once the sting of the loss started to die down, Hauser turned an optimist eye toward what is in front of his Bulldogs, who pulled off an upset to qualify for the state tournament last year.
“I’m excited,” the coach said. “We’ll have a good year because we’ll just keep on getting better.”
HELENA HIGH — Garth Grimsrud 4 0-0 8, Tyler Tolman 3 0-1 7, Troy Arntson 7 2-2 18, Chase South 4 4-4 13, Henry Garrett 4 0-0 8, Roger Shein 0 2-4 2, Derek Jenneskens 3 0-0 8, Tyler Matteucci 0 0-0 0, Tayler Tyson 0 0-0 0, A.J. Kanthack 0 0-0 0. Totals 25 8-11 64.
BUTTE HIGH — Brian Smith 5 5-8 19, Colten Billteen 4 4-4 12, Peter Granger 3 0-0 8, Cory Farstveet 1 0-0 2, Dallas Cook 5 5-6 16, Killian O’Leary 0 0-0 0, Chase Kremer 0 2-2 2, Gabe McClafferty 0 0-0 0, Tucker Thatcher 0 2-2 2.
Helena 12 19 19 14 — 64
Butte 10 17 25 9 — 61
3-point goals — Helena 6 (Arntson 2, Jenneskens 2, Tolman, South), Butte 7 (Smith 4, Granger 2, Cook). Fouls — Helena 21, Butte 15. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.