By Bruce Sayler
The Butte High tactic was to make Great Falls High “try to beat us from 20 feet instead of two,” head coach Luke Powers said.
“And, they did.”
The Bison did by a 55-34 margin while draining 11 shots from 3-point range with seven different shooters pulling the trigger. Great Falls sank 11 of 18 attempts (61 percent) from 3-point land and hit baskets at a 56 percent rate from the field overall in chalking up the Eastern AA Conference high school boys’ basketball win Saturday at Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
“We had opportunities to make more shots and couldn’t,” Powers said. “The shots were not going in and we weren’t reading what they were doing, defensively. We had nine points total in the second and third quarters.”
The Bulldogs did suffer from some coldness. They were 9-for-29 from the floor (31 percent) and connected on just 5 of 18 treys from the 3-point arc, a make rate of 28 percent.
The most painful period was the second. Lathan Ricketts knocked down a 3-pointer for Butte High to tie the score 14-all, which is where it stood heading into the second quarter. Great Falls High then scorched a 12-0 tear before the Bulldogs tallied their only points of the frame, a Ricketts pullup jumper with 50 seconds left. So the Bison led 26-16 at intermission.
Kyle Winkler had snapped the 14-all tie with a basket off a pass from Kyle Torgerson. Torgerson and Cash Abbott then tacked on 3s and the Bison were on a stampede. Blake Thelen’s steal-and-layup play added further frustration to Butte High’s situation and the spree ended with Thelen scoring on a drive. Thelen wound up with a game-high 16 points and seven rebounds in leading the Great Falls win.
“We had a tie game in the first quarter and then they got their seven easy baskets,” Powers said. “And, then we knew the press was coming. I bet they shot better than 50 percent.”
The coach said his team was to tighten the inside on the bigger Bison and the visitors’ inside game was fairly silent. However, the outside shots rained in, steadily.
The Bulldogs played only six players as starter Tommy Mellott sat out with an ankle injury suffered during Saturday’s earlier team shootaround, Powers said. Mellott was on the bench in street clothes, but hopes are, Powers said, for the sophomore guard to be back in the lineup for Tuesday’s home game with Bozeman.
Butte High had difficulty taking shots, especially in the third quarter when the Bulldogs launched only five from the field. Powers said Great Falls High kept switching on the screens and prevented the mismatches the Bulldogs sought.
“What they did was a good thing to do against us,” he said. “We didn’t do a great job of switching. We used only six players tonight and one was a freshman who doesn’t quite yet have the experience. And we didn’t want to get a ton of shots off.”
Instead, the Bulldogs hunted the higher-percentage shots while risking excessive Great Falls High possession.
The Bison were 6-for-13 from 3-point range in the first half and then outscored Butte High 13-7 in the third quarter. Butte High had gotten to within 33-23 after a Trevyn Roth trey before Great Falls High responded with consecutive triples by Torgerson and Kendall Kynett.
The Bison kept their comfortable distance the rest of the way.
The win lifted Great Falls High to a 9-2 record that includes a 4-1 conference mark.
Ricketts’ nine points led Butte High in scoring. Clay Ferguson was next with eight points, Kale McCarthy and Roth scored six each, and Kash Kelly tallied five. Jacob Olson also played. Kelly led in rebounds with five and in assists with four. McCarthy and Olson each blocked a shot and Ricketts came up with three steals. The Bulldogs are 1-10 for the season, 0-6 in Eastern AA play.
GREAT FALLS HIGH (9-2, 4-1) — Hunter McKinney 2-3 0-0 6, Kendall Kynett 1-5 0-0 3, Blake Thelen 7-11 0-1 16, Kyle Torgerson 3-6 0-1 9, Kevin Boes 0-1 2-4 2, Cash Abbott 1-1 0-0 3, Kyle Winkler 3-4 0-0 6, Riley Callery 1-3 2-2 5, Teagan Olson 2-2 0-0 5, Keegan Bistodeau 0-0 0-0 0, Levi Torgerson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-36 4-8 55.
BUTTE HIGH (1-10, 0-6) — Kash Kelly 1-4 2-2 5, Clay Ferguson 2-10 3-4 8, Kale McCarthy 1-5 4-5 6, Lathan Ricketts 3-6 2-2 9, Trevyn Roth 2-4 0-0 6, Jacob Olson 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 9-29 11-13 34.
Great Falls 14 12 13 16 — 55
Butte High 14 2 7 11 — 34
3-point goals — Great Falls 11-18 (McKinney 2-3, Kynett 1-4, Thelen 2-3, K. Torgerson 3-6, Abbott 1-1, Callery 1-1), Butte 5-18 (K. Kelly 1-3, Ferguson 1-6, McCarthy 0-2, Ricketts 1-3, Roth 2-4). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Great Falls 15, Butte 12. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Great Falls 23 (Thelen 7), Butte 18 (K. Kelly 5). Blocks — Great Falls 3 (Callery 2), Butte 2 (McCarthy 1, J. Olson 1). Assists — Great Falls 13 (Kynett 4), Butte 6 (K. Kelly 4). Steals — Great Falls 6 (K. Torgerson 3), Butte 6 (Ricketts 3). Turnovers — Great Falls 8, Butte 11.