Missoula Big Sky burgled, pressured and thieved its way to a high school boys’ basketball victory Saturday in the Butte Civic Center.
The Eagles came up with 23 steals, often preying on the Butte High pass to the frontcourt, to pick up a 65-55 non-conference Class AA victory over the Bulldogs.
Cole Baker and R.J. LaValley were the ringleaders with six steals apiece, also fueling the offense. Baker finished with 14 points and LaValley with eight. Big Sky also gained efforts of 13 points from Ethan Donaldson and 10 from Ryan Koster.
The relentless Eagles countered a big night by Butte High junior Dallas Cook, who pulled down 17 rebounds and notched 10 points. Four Bulldogs scored in double figures as Peter Granger and Brian Smith finished with 13 points apiece and Cory Farstveet with 10.
The Eagles’ getaway wasn’t guaranteed until they kept widening the spread in the final quarter. The period began with Big Sky holding a 49-48 edge and Big Sky then methodically pulled away, disrupting Butte High’s attempts to pass and running well down the court.
The style was rough-and-tumble with foul whistles usually interrupting play on both ends.
Butte High head coach Terry Hauser agreed it was a physical game, adding his team still needs to figure out how to win in any kind of play. Bulldog games have been close in a 1-3 season to date.
“We have to find a way to win,” Hauser said. “We need to find a way to take care of the ball at the end. They (Bulldogs) want to win so bad that sometimes their inexperience is showing. We’ll get it done, though.”
The contest was a matchup of two first-year head coaches with Hauser going against former Butte Central player Bryan “Spud” Ferriter, who is heading the Big Sky squad. Two former Butte High stars, Tyler Gilder and Mark Quinn, are assisting Ferriter on the Eagle bench.
Butte High took a fourth-quarter lead when Brian Smith canned his third 3-point shot of the game for a 51-49 edge. Baker responded with a basket-and-one play to put Big Sky ahead, 52-51. Granger tied the count for Butte High with a free throw.
The Eagles tallied the next six points before the Bulldogs halved their deficit with a basket from Farstveet and a Cook foul shot conversion. Big Sky, though, closed the game on a 7-0 run, mopping up at the charity stripe on three free throws by Donaldson and two each by Tyler Thornock and Jesson Preston.
“We came out and competed really well in the third quarter,” Hauser said, talking about noticed positives for his team. “We rebounded well. The kids didn’t give up and they played hard.”
Turnovers are now the target area for improvement, Hauser said. Committing them at crucial times has hampered attempts at victory. Many can be attributed to nervousness, he said.
MISSOULA BIG SKY— Olan Donaldson 1-1 2-2 4, Jesson Preston 3-7 2-2 9, Tyler Thornock 0-2 3-6 3, Cole Baker 6-9 1-1 14, Ethan Donaldson 5-9 3-4 13, R.J. LaValley 2-6 2-2 8, Ryan Koster 4-6 2-9 10, Colin Bingham 0-3 0-0 0, Alex Mustard 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 23-45 15-26 65.
BUTTE HIGH (1-3) — Peter Granger 5-9 3-5 13, Brian Smith 4-8 2-4 13, Zach Bunney 1-4 1-2 3, Cory Farstveet 5-14 0-0 10, Dallas Cook 4-11 4-8 12, Kyle Peterson 1-2 2-4 4, Chase Plum 0-0 0-0 0, Colten Billteen 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-48 12-23 55.
Big Sky 9 18 22 16 — 65
Butte High 9 19 20 7 — 55
3-point goals — Big Sky 4-8 (Preston 1-3, Baker 1-1, LaValley 2-4), Butte 3-6 (Smith 3-5, Bunney 0-10). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Big Sky 18, Butte 19. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Big Sky 29 (Thornock 9), Butte 32 (Cook 17). Blocks —Big Sky 0, Butte 2 (Granger 2). Assists —ig Sky 7 (Koster 3), Butte 5 (Cook 4). Steals — Big Sky 23 (Baker 6, LaValley 6), Butte 9 (Cook 2, Bunney 2, Smith 2). Turnovers — Big Sky 25, Butte 27.