By Bill Foley
The Butte Central boys’ basketball team won’t be moving on to Western A Divisional tournament as the No. 1 seed.
The Maroons, though, are moving on.
That was the point of emphasis for the Maroons after BC fell 54-52 to Hamilton in the championship game of the Southwestern A Divisional tournament at the Maroon Activities Center. (Stats; Final bracket)
Another focus was that Butte Central, which fell to 16-4, played pretty well in front of the large crowd.
“I feel good,” BC coach Brodie Kelly said. “Our guys are certainly disappointed we lost the game tonight but not with the way we played. I think we played pretty good basketball.”
The Broncs, led by 6-foot-2 senior Hunter Omlid, made a few more plays down the stretch.
Hamilton outscored BC 30-22 in the second half to overcome a 30-24 deficit. Central led 15-10 after the first quarter
Tanner Goligoski hit a 3-pointer late in the third quarter to tie the game at 35. Omlid opened the fourth quarter with a three to give the Broncs their first lead at 38-35.
Dylan Sestrich sank a 3-pointer off a Gator Yelenich pass to tie the game at 40 with 5 minutes, 9 second s left in the game.
Sestrich, a senior, hit another long ballot give the Maroons one more lead at 45-42 with 3:48 on the clock.
Camron Rothie responded with a bucket, Omlid sank another 3-pointer, and Hamilton led 48-45 after Carson Rostad sank a free throw with 1:31 left.
“Hunter Omlid stepped up and hit some shots,” Kelly said. “Rothie hit the little step-back shot when we were up three. That was a big play on his part and pretty decent defense on our part.
“That’s a really talented offensive team,” Kelly said. “They run good stuff. I don’t know that we ever felt compromised, I just felt like their guys made some plays, made some difficult shots.”
The Broncs hit free throws to make it a 51-47 lead before Braden Harrington sank a 3-pointer to pull within 51-50 with 13 seconds left.
Omlid and Goligoski each hit free throws to make it 54-50. Goligoski’s came with the clock showing :00.9.
BC called time out, and, with a four-point lead, Hamilton coach Travis Blome kept his team on the bench. BC scored off the long inbound pass, but it didn’t matter.
Omlid finished with 24 points and six rebounds to lead the Broncs, who improved to 17-3. Goligoski and Trey Searle each scored 10, while Rothie and Rostad each scored five.
Senior Cade Holter scored 14 to lead the Maroons. Harrington, a junior, added 13 points, while Matt Simkins scored nine.
Aaron Richards scored five points and grabbed eight rebounds for the Maroons. That came a night after Richards was limited to just a few minutes in a semifinal win over the Dillon.
“Aaron was a big difference for us tonight,” Kelly said. “He played with a ton of energy. He did a great job on the glass and on the offensive end.”
The coach said Friday’s limited play for the junior was because of the opponent.
“Last night we just didn’t have a good matchup for him,” Kelly said. “He understands that. His matchups tonight were better, and he made some great plays for us. He’s such a competitor and such a good leader out there, and that gets contagious.”
Trevor Neumann sank a 3-pointer for the Maroons, and Jared Simkins tossed in two points.
Luke Heaphy and Yelenich ran the BC offense and contributed on the defensive end.
“I’m happy with the way that we played,” Kelly said. “When you get into tournament basketball, the margins are pretty slim. You’re putting two I think good teams against each other, and the plays in the last 3 minutes get magnified.”
Kelly chalked up the loss as a learning experience for his Maroons, who open the divisional tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday against Libby. The Loggers beat Whitefish in Saturday’s third-place game at the Northwestern A District tournament.
Hamilton plays Whitefish at 8 p.m.
The difference between the No. 1 and No. 2 seed isn’t that big, Kelly said.
“It’s a crap shoot,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to beat good basketball teams to advance.”