By Derek Hendrickson
BELGRADE — The Butte Central Maroons played what head coach Brodie Kelly describe as “the best basketball we played all year, it was awesome” as they dominated the Belgrade Panthers midway through the third, leading 37-20.
Unfortunately for the Maroons, a high school game lasts 32 minutes, and Belgrade’s 29-3 run to close the game turned the 17 point deficit into a big 49-40 win for the home standing Panthers Tuesday evening.
“For the last 12 minutes it was another story,” Kelly said. “They scored 29 points in 12 minutes and it was transition buckets, our offensive miscues led to poor transition defense. We just did not give ourselves a chance to make them execute and they were getting fouled or getting into the lane darn near every possession.”
The shocking change of fortunes coincided with Belgrade scrapping their man-to-man defense and jumping into a 1-3-1 zone after calling timeout following a 13-6 burst to start the second half. During the run, junior Tanner Kump came up with 2 steals, an assist on a Cole Harper triple and four points.
With 4:30 left in the 3rd Central was up 17 and had all the momentum. Belgrade coach Mike Deming called a timeout, knowing he needed to mix things up and dialed up the perfect kryptonite for everything that was going so well for the Maroons to that point.
“Their defense was very aggressive,” Kelly said when asked about the 1-3-1. “They were gambling, they were saying we’re going to get a steal or we’re going to give up a layup and we chose to pass the ball around the perimeter instead of going at the defense.”
To illustrate the point Kelly made, the Maroons only scored one basket after the defensive switch. An early fourth quarter three ball by Kump to make it 40-32. Central was unable to find the layup opportunities and because of that, Belgrade poured in the last 17 points to take the non-conference win and improve to 7-6 on the season.
Belgrade was paced by senior center Morgan Eitel who led everyone with 17. He was joined in double figures by sophomore Dawson Fowler, who added 15. Of their 32 combined points only 9 came in the first half.
Central saw 3 players reach double figures. Kump and Nate McGree both had 12 and Harper added 11, including buzzer beating buckets in both the first two quarters. Sam Johnston had three and Cade Holter scored two for the Maroons. Riley Richardson and Archie Petritz also logged minutes on the block.
During the strong Central first half the game was remarkably clean. Only 3 first half fouls were called and the teams combined for 6 turnovers, 1 by the Maroons. BC took 12-10 and 24-14 leads out of the first two quarters and a 37-29 edge into the fourth.
Central saw its four-game win streak snapped and fell to 8-4. They will return to conference action Saturday when they play host to Hamilton in a key rematch of the Bronc’s double overtime win earlier this month. Tipoff is set for 4 p.m. at the MAC. The winner will all but lock up the No. 2 seed from the Southwest in the upcoming Super Divisional.
The Maroons will get another shot at the Panthers on Thursday, Feb. 18 in Butte on senior parent night. The boys will tipoff immediately following the girls game as part of a doubleheader.
BUTTE CENTRAL (8-4) — Cole Harper 5 0-0 12, Nate McGree 5 2-2 12, Tanner Kump 5 0-1 11, Sam Johnston 1 0-0 3, Riley Richardson 0 0-0 0, Archie Petritz 0 0-0 0, Cade Holter 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 2-3 40.
BELGRADE (7-6) — Dawson Fowler 5 3-4 15, Kaden Arneson 1 0-0 3, Trey Leyman 2 2-4 6, Tanner Campbell 0 1-2 1, Morgan Eitel 8 1-2 17, Brock Salbury 2 0-0 6, Matt Walker 0 1-2 1. Totals 18 8-14 49.
Butte Central 12 12 12 3 — 40
Belgrade 10 4 15 20 — 49
3-point goals — BC 4 (Harper 2, Kump 1, Johnston 1), Belgrade 5 (Fowler 2, Salsbury 2, Arneson 1). Fouls — BC 12, Belgrade 7. Fouled out — none.