Bulldog boys buck Broncs

Butte High junior Ryson Lovshin takes the ball to the hole as Billings Senior's Brooks Henderson defends. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

The title of Most Surprising Basketball Team of the Class AA might no longer belong to Billings Senior.

Butte High’s boys, who sent shockwaves through the state with a near upset of Bozeman two nights earlier, possibly stole that designation from the Broncs by knocking off Senior 62-55 Saturday at the Butte Civic Center.

“It’s good to come out and finally get a win,” said Butte High junior point guard Ryson Lovshin, who finished second on the team with 15 points. “After working hard and almost beating Bozeman we come out and win this one. This is a big confidence booster.”

The Bulldogs started fast to take the big lead. More importantly, perhaps, the Bulldogs finished a game the hard-charging Broncs made too close for comfort.

“We persevered through missing free throws and turning the ball over, and we just finished the game like we haven’t been the last few times,” Lovshin said. “We’re getting better, and we’re going to start to win more games.”

Butte High led 20-9 at the end of the first quarter and 38-21 at halftime.

The Bulldogs extended the lead to 23 at 44-21 when they opened the second half with a 3-pointer by Brock Powell and a three-point play by Lovshin.

Powell, who scored 11 of his team-leading 16 points in the second half, posted his third straight double-double with 12 rebounds, including a handful of key defensive boards down the stretch.

“He’s just dominating on our team now,” Lovshin said of his classmate. “If we keep giving the ball to him we’ll do well.”

Billings Senior made several runs at the Bulldogs in the second half. The Bulldogs, though, kept coming up with answers.

When the Broncs went on a 15-5 run to cut the lead to 49-36 late in the third quarter, the Bulldogs responded. Powell scored off a nice feed from Trey Hoagland before Evan Anderson, who joined Lovshin and Powell in double figures with 11 points, hit one of his three 3-pointers just before the buzzer.

Anderson’s three gave the Bulldogs a 54-36 lead heading into the final quarter.

Senior opened the fourth with a 9-2 run to pull within 46-45.

Then freshman Kash Kelly hit Lovshin with a beautiful back-door pass for a three-point play with 4 minutes, 54 seconds left.

“He’s a stud, isn’t he?” Butte High coach Luke Powers said of Kelly, who brings a spark and leadership beyond his years off the bench. “He’s going to be fun for the next few years.”

Thanks to nine missed free throws in the fourth quarter, Senior was able to pull to within 59-55 when Nathan Dick scored and was fouled with 1:57 left. Dick missed the free throw, but Braxton Haws grabbed a long rebound.

Butte High’s defense, though, held, forcing a long 3-point attempt by Haws.

The Bulldogs defense held on for a couple more possessions, and Kelly went 2 for 2 and Powell 1 for 2 from the line to secure the win.

Powers said he is happy his team will pick up a victory and a learning experience at the same time.

“We had 12 turnovers in the second half, we had three in the first half,” Powers said. “Again, I would say that’s experience. But I think one of the ways we’re going to learn is to deal with stuff like that.

“As much as I’m going to lose hours and possibly years off my life coaching games like that, it’s good for us,” Powers said. “It’s another experience for a young team, and we found a way to get it done. We’ve learned a lot from losses, and you have to. It’s nice to learn this way, too.”

Eight different players scored as Butte High improved to 2-6 in the Eastern AA and 3-11 overall.

Patrick O’Herron came off the bench to score six points, while Travis Williams scored five, Kelly tossed in four and Hoagland and Kyle Klapan each netted two.

Haws scored 15 of his game-high 17 points in the second half. Dick scored 13, while Mac Turner tossed in 12 for the Broncs, who fell to 3-4 and 7-7.

“I think our patience bothered them,” Powers said of Senior, which recently beat defending Class AA state champion Billings Skyview. “We made them play our tempo, and they want to play fast. They started jacking, and we were down here controlling possession to possession for a really long time.”

The Bulldogs will head to Dillon for a showdown with the Beavers on Tuesday. Then they’ll battle Butte Central on Thursday.

After the last two games, the Bulldogs will no longer be playing with the benefit of low expectations.

“That’s exciting,” Powers said. “We enjoy flying under the radar, but at the same time we enjoy winning, too. If you win, people are going to take notice.”

Lovshin said the Bulldogs are only going to get better.

“Keeping up with Bozeman and beating this team, we’re starting to get up there,” he said. “We can do good in the state tournament if we keep working hard.”

BILLINGS SENIOR (3-4, 7-7) — Braxton Haws 6 3-3 17, Eli Caekaert 0 0-0 0, Nate Dick 6 1-5 13, Cole McKenzie 1 0-0 2, Mac Turner 4 4-4 12, Demetrius Brown 0 2-2 2, Skeff Thomas 2 0-0 4, Keaton Anderson 0 0-0 0, Brooks Henderson 1 1-4 3. Totals 20 11-18 55.
BUTTE HIGH (2-6, 3-11) — Ryson Lovshin 4 5-6 15, Evan Anderson 4 0-2 11, Travis Williams 2 0-0 5, Kyle Klapan 0 2-4 2, Brock Powell 4 7-11 16, Trey Hoagland 1 0-0 2, Patrick O’Herron 3 0-2 6, Kash Kelly 0 4-6 4. Totals 18 19-31 62.

Senior             9          12        15        14 — 55
Butte               20        18        16        8 — 62

3-point goals — Senior 4 (Haws 2, Thomas 2), Butte 7 (Anderson 3, Lovshin 2, Williams 1, Powell 1). Fouls — Senior 25, Butte 14. Fouled out — none.

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