Central turns attention to Lewistown
GREAT FALLS — Butte Central looked primed for an upset Thursday at the Four Seasons Arena.
The Maroons got 3-pointers from Egan Lester and Bryson Sestrich, jumping out to a 7-1 lead over Eastern A champion Billings Central.
The much-taller Rams, though, clamped down on the Maroons in the second half, and Billings Central advanced to the semifinals of the Class A State tournament with a 62-44 win over Butte Central. (Stats)
The Maroons (11-9) will head to the consolation bracket, where they will take on Lewistown (12-7) at 11 a.m. Friday. Billings Central (14-3) will take on Polson (16-2) in Friday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal.
Laurel (13-4) and Dillon (18-0) will play in Friday’s 5:30 semifinal. The Locomotives and Beavers won first-round games on Wednesday. (Bracket)
“We played pretty tough for the first three quarters,” Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly said. “We didn’t score very well in the third quarter, but we were still competing and playing tough. I the fourth quarter, we just weren’t playing tough. We gave up some transition buckets that changed that score in a hurry.”
Butte Central trialed 14-12 after one quarter and 28-26 at the half. Billings Central extended the lead to 42-34 after three quarters.
Cayden Merchant scored 13 points to lead the Rams. Malachai Stewart scored 11, and Brock Blatter tossed in 10 points to go along with seven rebounds.
Blatter is 6-foot-6, Merchant is 6-4 and Stewart is 6-1.
“They’re front line killed us,” Kelly said. “Their front line was their top three scores. They outrebounded outs 35-14. They just kept pounding it in.”
Blatter was key in three sequences that Kelly called “momentum-changing” plays in the second half. He blocked two shots, one of which the Maroons argued should have been called goal tending.
Another one came as BC trailed 37-32. Butte Central sophomore Kyle Holter tipped the ball on defense and ran it down. As he tried to save if from going out of bounds, however, the ball ended in Blatter’s hands, and Blatter buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key.
Sophomore Dougie Peoples and junior Drew Badovinac each scored 11 points to lead the Maroons, who saw seven player dent the scorebook. Sestrich and Lester finished with six, Holter and Isaac Sholey scored four apiece, and Bryan “Hugo” Holland tossed in two
Konnor Pochervina, Joseph Sehulster, George Riojas, John Fisher and Rye Doherty also played for the Maroons, who quickly turn their attention to getting a win on Friday. That would send the Maroons to a loser-out game on Saturday, something Kelly said is important.
The longtime Maroon coach pointed to Central’s run to third place in 2019 leading to the championship from of 2020.
“For our team this year, getting to Saturday at State is a big deal. It is meaningful game for us,” Kelly said. “We’ll regroup, and I think we’ll have some fight in us tomorrow.”
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