By Bill Foley
Sometimes the score doesn’t tell the whole story.
Butte High’s boys’ basketball team couldn’t overcome a 14-1 Great Falls High run in the third quarter Saturday afternoon, and the Bison topped the Bulldogs 56-43 at the Ross J. Richardson Gymnasium.
The loss was the fourth straight for the Bulldogs, who fell to 1-5 overall and 0-2 in Eastern AA play.
For Butte High assistant coach Scott Ferguson, though, Saturday’s matinee just might have been a step in the right direction against the top team in the league.
“The biggest thing tonight is I was happy we didn’t play scared,” Ferguson said. “We’ve been playing scared for a while.”
Ferguson filled in as head coach in place of Luke Powers, who served a mandated one-game suspension because he was ejected after two technical fouls last week at Great Falls Russell.
“That’s a good team,” Ferguson said of the Bison, who improved to 6-1 overall and 2-0 in the Eastern AA. “They’re No. 1 in the East right now, and sometimes you’ve just got to give them credit. I love our kids because they’re not where they thought they’d be, and they’re staying together. We had a great week of practice.”
Butte High led much of the first half, leading by as much as 15-10 in the second quarter after a 3-poitner by Trevyn Roth and a mid-range jumper by fellow senior Clay Ferguson.
The Bison, though, closed the frame with a 10-2 run to take a 20-17 advantage into halftime. Great Falls High scored 11 of its 20 first-half points from the free throw line, hitting 11 of 12 attempts.
Butte High didn’t lead again.
Senior Danny McCloskey, one of two Bulldogs in double figures scoring with 11 points, scored to cut Great Falls High’s lead to 25-23 with 6 minutes, 1 second left in the third quarter.
The next 12 points were scored by the Bison, and Great Falls High led 39-24 after the 14-1 run.
The Bulldogs trailed 39-30 after three, and Butte High cut the lead to six twice in the first half of the fourth.
Roth opened scoring with a 3-poitners to cut the lead to 39-33.
After Great Falls’ Kyle Torgerson turned a three-point play, Roth was fouled on a 3-point attempt. He made all three free throws to make it a 42-36 game.
The next Great Falls possession, however, was killer for the Bulldogs.
Butte High sophomore post Jake Olson was called for a foul on Torgerson. When he clapped his hands in disappointment after the foul, he was whistled for a technical.
Torgerson, who scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, hit three of four foul shots with 4:14 left. Great Falls retained possession after the free tosses, and Torgerson drove for a bucket to make it a 47-36 lead with 3:57 left.
“That was hard to come back from,” Ferguson said of the possession that netted the Bison five points.
Ferguson didn’t argue the technical foul.
“He slapped his hands, so we deserved the T,” the coach said. “A player can’t slap his hand after a call like that.”
The lead proved to be too much for the Bulldogs.
Blake Thelen, a 6-foot-4 senior, scored 13 points to lead the Bison. Luke Wyman came off the bench to score 10.
Keegan Bistodeau added nine for Great Falls, while Riley Callery and Cash Abbott each tossed in six.
Clay Ferguson, the son of the fill-in coach, scored 14 points to lead the Bulldogs. Roth finished with nine for Butte High, which saw all seven players who played score points.
Tommy Mellott scored four points for Butte, while Kash Kelly, who had some great passes in the game, joined Olson with two. Kale McCarthy tossed in one.
Olson’s game is about a lot more than the two points. Coach Ferguson had lots of praise for his 6-6 sophomore.
“He took a couple of big steps this week just being strong with the ball,” Ferguson said. “He’s going to be a great player. He really rebounded well and helped us on the inside.”
As Butte High heads toward Tuesday’s non-conference game against Dillon at the Civic Center, Ferguson said the Bulldogs are starting to feel good about themselves.
“There’s a lot of positive stuff that we can take from this tonight, and I like how they responded in the locker room after the game,” Ferguson said. “I’m looking forward to getting after Dillon on Tuesday. I’m looking forward to having Coach Powers back.”
GREAT FALLS HIGH (6-1, 2-0) — Keegan Bistodeau 3 2-2 9, Riley Callery 2 2-2 6, Blake Thelen 4 4-5 13, Kyle Torgerson 2 8-11 12, Cash Abbott 2 0-0 6, Levi Torgerson 0 0-0 0, Drew Wyamn 4 2-2 10, Daunte Janikula 0 0-0 0, Luke Wyman 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 18-22 56.
BUTTE HIGH (1-5, 0-2) — Kash Kelly 0 2-4 2, Clay Ferguson 5 2-2 14, Danny McCloskey 4 3-4 11, Trevyn Roth 2 3-3 9, Jake Olson 1 0-0 2, Tommy Mellott 2 0-0 4, Kale McCarthy 0 1-4 1. Totals 14 11-17 43.
Great Falls High 6 14 19 17 — 56
Butte High 10 7 13 13 — 43
3-point goals — GF 4 (Abbott 2, Bistodeau, Thelen), Butte 4 (Ferguson 2, Roth 2). Fouls — GF 14, Butte 16. Fouled out — none. Technical — Olson.