By Bruce Sayler
The weld on the cap of Butte High’s win column proved again to be a tight hold.
The Bulldog boys remained winless in Eastern AA Conference basketball play Saturday, despite seeming to have all the winning ingredients. All were foiled by Billings West, 78-71 in double overtime.
Butte High erased a 13-point deficit to take the lead. The Bulldogs benefitted from some clutch shooting, poised play, shots that didn’t appear to have a chance to stretch net — but did, anyhow — and some of their best offensive execution for the season. They made 53 percent of their tries from the field.
They were short a break or two.
They were also missing any answers for Golden Bear guard Jesse Owens. The 5-foot-10 Montana Grizzly football signee scored 35 points, 16 of them in the two overtime periods. He totaled 24 points after being held scoreless in the third quarter.
Butte High head coach Luke Powers was frustrated, disappointed and shaking his head after the game in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
“It was an awesome game,” he said. “We’re just not doing the things we need to win a game right now, not getting the baskets, or the break. We’re close. Sometimes, it’s just being lucky and we’re not winning, yet.”
A long 3-point basket by Owens with 3 minutes, 8 seconds left in the second overtime gave Billings West a 69-68 edge and Butte High was unable to go ahead again. Cade Tyson came up with a steal for the Golden Bears and they converted on a basket-and-one by Owens. Jake Olson of Butte High fouled out on the play, finishing what might have been the best performance of the 6-foot-6 sophomore’s young career.
Tyson rebounded a Bulldog miss, a contested layup, on the other end, and Kade Wilcox scored off the possession for Billings West. The Golden Bears were pulling away, leading 74-68 with 1:28 left.
Another steal returned the ball to Billings West and Wilcox drew a foul. He made one free throw. However, only a minute was left and foul shots drained the rest of the clock.
“Maybe, it’ll happen for us at the right time, like divisional tournament,” Powers said.
He, too, bemoaned what looked like might happen — shots appearing to be online, but missing, funny bounces of the bal, and so on. Good play going unrewarded caused frustration.
“Jake keeps improving and, if he keeps growing, will be one of the best players ever at Butte High School,” Powers said. “He was special tonight. Kash (Kelly) did a nice job getting the ball in to players, Trevyn (Roth) hit two 3s in a row after we were down by 10, Clay (Ferguson) had another great game for us — he goes and gets it, Danny (McCloskey) shot free throws — nobody shoots more of them than he does in the state.”
McCloskey wound up with 21 points, Ferguson with 20 and Olson had 12 points and seven rebounds.
Olson took a pass from McCloskey for an inside basket that tied the score at 56-all with 1:53 left in regulation time. The teams traded possessions before a Tyson miss with 2 seconds left was rebounded by Olson. The game entered its first overtime.
The period was a basket-trading one, Butte High gaining a late 66-64 lead on a McCloskey 3-pointer and Kelly free throw. Owens drove the hoop and tied the score with 16 seconds to go, and neither team could untie it before the horn blared.
The second overtime arrived. Olson netted two foul shots for a 68-66 edge before Owens hit his go-ahead 3-ball.
The Golden Bears sped to a 9-3 lead at the start of the game and grew the margin to 13 points, 29-16, on a Tyson free throw, 3:09 before halftime. It was 31-20 at intermission and a 36-24 difference favoring Billings West at 6:17 of the third frame.
Butte High launched its comeback.
Olson tallied on a pass from Kale McCarthy and then Roth knocked down consecutive treys. Ferguson capped the surge with a drive to the hoop and the gap had dwindled to 36-35 with 3:52 still to go in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs finally grabbed an edge when McCloskey finished a 6-0 Butte High run with a driving layup for a 46-45 lead.
The teams competed back and forth the rest of fourth quarter and took it into the extra frames.
“Billings West is tough,” Powers said. “They were picked No. 1 in the East before the season started. But, we need to find a way to win these games. The kids play so well from behind, then have trouble playing while ahead. We have to get that win that’ll get us over the top.”
Roth finished with nine points, McCarthy with five and Kelly with four. Tommy Mellott also contributed many minutes to the effort.
The Bulldogs are 0-10 in conference play and 3-13 overall, and will close out their home schedule on Tuesday with a game against Bozeman in the Civic Center. Powers said senior reserve Jake Vetter will join an all-senior starting lineup for Senior Parents Night recognition. He said McCarthy volunteered to sit out early so that Vetter could start.
“That’s the kind of kids we have,” the coach said, acknowledging the unselfishness the team members display.
Tyson had 17 points in support of Owens for Billings West. The Golden Bears are 7-3 in conference, 11-6 for the season.
BILLINGS WEST (11-6, 7-3) — Josh Erbacher 4-8 0-0 8, Jesse Owens 13-18 4-4 35, Lucas Gibb 2-3 3-7 7, Cade Tyson 6-12 3-5 17, Kobe Nelson 1-2 0-2 2, Peyton Streiff 0-3 0-0 0, Kade Wilcox 1-2 1-2 3, Carsen Mayer 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 29-51 11-20 78.
BUTTE HIGH (3-13, 0-10) — Kash Kelly 1-5 2-4 5, Clay Ferguson 7-10 6-8 20, Kale McCarthy 1-2 2-2 5, Trevyn Roth 2-2 3-3 9, Jake Olson 5-8 2-2 12, Dan McCloskey 5-11 8-12 21, Tommy Mellott 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 21-40 23-31 71.
Billings West 13 18 14 11 10 12 — 78
Butte High 9 11 20 16 10 5 — 71
3-point goals — West 9-20 (Erbacher 0-2, Owens 5-9, Tyson 2-6, Mayer 2-3), Butte 6-14 (Kelly 0-3, McCarthy 1-1, Roth 2-3, McCloskey 3-6, Mellott 0-1). Fouled out — Olson. Total fouls — West 23, Butte 17. Technicals — none. Rebounds — West 30 (Tyson 8), Butte 22 (Olson 7). Blocks — West 0, Butte 1 (Olson). Assists — West 13 (Erbacher 4, Owens 4), Butte 9 (Kelly 3). Steals — West 10 (Tyson 4), Butte 6 (McCloskey 3). Turnovers — West 12, Butte 13.