By Bruce Sayler
Hamilton was out to a big lead seemingly before Butte Central got started in their Southwestern A Conference high school boys’ basketball game Saturday at the Maroon Activities Center.
The Broncs never trailed and won 57-40. The slow start was of concern to Brodie Kelly, head coach of the Maroons.
“Unless you’re playing as hard as you can and concentrating as hard as you can, nothing else out there matters,” Kelly said. “That’s my answer to everything that happened out there.
“Yeah, it’s a concern. I haven’t seen that from our guys. If you do that in a tournament, you’re done.”
Bringing the task to immediate focus must be treated as a requirement, the coach said.
“The lesson from this is to be mentally prepared for the game,” he said. “That was the earliest I’ve had to call a timeout this season.”
That timeout came with Hamilton ahead 11-0 at the 5-minute, 11-second mark of the first quarter. Carter Kearns scored the first six points of the contest on a 3-point basket and a three-point play. Freshman Hunter Omlid then took an assist from Ky Burch for a basket and Burch fired in a 3-pointer, causing the timeout.
“There was never a stretch where I felt like we played with the right level of focus,” Kelly said.
Nate McGree netted two free throws to put BC on the scoreboard with 5 minutes left in the period. The frame ended with Hamilton controlling a 16-8 advantage.
The 6-foot-4 Kearns, a smooth-playing sophomore, finished with a team-high 14 points and Burch backed him with 10. Omlid led his squad on the boards with seven rebounds.
McGree was Butte Central’s leader with 18 points and eight rebounds. Cole Harper scored 11 points, nine on 3-point baskets.
By halftime, the Broncs’ lead was 29-18 as their 1-3-1 defense caused problems for the Maroons’ offense. The difference had grown to 25-10 after a 7-0 Hamilton run, but BC closed the half with an 8-4 spree to tighten it up a little bit.
McGree dumped a rebound into the hole as Butte Central scored first in the second half. The Broncs, though, outscored their hosts in the quarter and owned a 42-27 command going into the last frame.
The margin reached 19 points, 46-27, after Burch caged two free throws and Josh Heath meshed a 15-footer. Heath and Bret Huxtable are the team’s only seniors. The clock showed 7:06 still left after Heath’s jumper and Butte Central tried to rally.
Hamilton’s lead was 50-32 before McGree scored on a drive to the hoop and then rebounded a Bronc’s miss and sped coast-to-coast for a layup. Tanner Kump then picked off a Hamilton pass and raced for another bunny, drawing a foul on the play. He was unable to coax the foul shot through the hoop and the count was 50-38, Hamilton, with 3:34 to go.
The Broncs sealed the win with baskets by Kearns and Omlid, and three charity tosses Burch downed in the last three minutes. Harper made two free throws for Butte Central’s only points in the final stretch.
Kelly complimented Hamilton’s shiny performance. “They did a really nice job of spreading the floor and cutting hard,” he said of the Broncs. “They beat us down the floor and they beat us off the dribble. They knocked down some shots early.”
Kump finished with five points and his older brother, Tyler Kump, pumped in a 3-pointer. Also for the Maroons, Cade Holter scored two points, Riley Richardson hooped a foul shot, and Sam Johnston and Archie Petritz also played. Johnston had four rebounds and two assists.
The win put Hamilton at 3-2 in conference play at 6-7 for the season. The Broncs shot well, 50 percent from the field. Butte Central fell to 3-3 and 8-5. The Maroons were a cold 33 percent from the floor.
They will play at Livingston on Thursday in non-conference action.
HAMILTON (6-7, 3-2) — Josh Heath 2-5 0-1 5, Bret Huxtable 4-6 0-0 8, Ky Burch 2-5 5-6 10, Hunter Omlid 4-11 0-1 8, Carter Kearns 6-9 1-1 14, Bridger Bauder 2-4 0-0 6, Jaylen Taggart 2-4 2-2 6, Tyler Chouinard 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-44 8-11 57.
BUTTE CENTRAL (8-5, 3-3) — Sam Johnston 0-1 0-0 0, Nate McGree 5-9 8-8 18, Tanner Kump 2-10 1-2 5, Riley Richardson 0-1 1-2 1, Cole Harper 3-9 2-2 11, Cade Holter 1-4 0-0 2, Archie Petritz 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler Kump 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 12-36 12-14 40.
Hamilton 16 13 13 15 — 57
Butte Central 8 10 9 13 — 40
3-point goals — Hamilton 5-11 (Heath 1-2, Burch 1-1, Omlid 0-2, Kearns 1-3, Bauder 2-3), BC 4-10 (Tanner Kump 0-4, Harper 3-5, Tyler Kump 1-1). Fouled out — Holter. Total fouls — Hamilton 13, BC 13. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Hamilton 27 (Omlid 7), BC 21 (McGree 8). Blocks — Hamilton 3 (Kearns 1, Bauder 1, Taggart 1), BC 1 (McGree). Assists — Hamilton 17 (Heath 4, Omlid 4), BC 5 (Tanner Kump 2, Johnston 2). Steals — Hamilton 8 (Kearns 4), BC 5 (Tanner Kump 2). Turnovers — Hamilton 8, BC 11.