By Bruce Sayler
Billings West continued its spell on Butte High in high school boys’ basketball.
The deep and talented Golden Bears left Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym Friday night with a convincing 61-43 Eastern AA Conference win over the Bulldogs. The victory was Billings West’s 26th straight over Butte High in a streak that dates to February 24, 2008 when the Bulldogs last prevailed over the Golden Bears, 67-60, and that game was played in Billings.
Butte High held Senior Night festivities and the Bulldogs lone senior boys’ basketball player, Lathan Ricketts, was recognized with his parents before the game.
The latest West win gave the Golden Bears a sweep of the regular-season games with Butte High and came without the services of starter and scorer Cole DeVries, who reportedly missed the contest because of a bout with food poisoning.
“They’re a good team and they do some good things,” Luke Powers, head coach of the Bulldogs, said about the Golden Bears. “They hit their shots. But, we handed them some things tonight, too.”
Turnovers were a downfall for Butte High and failure to take enough advantage of what was a strength in the game — the Bulldogs’ own 3-point shooting. The coach pointed to the foul line as a place not visited often enough by Butte High to capitalize as needed. It tried just 10 free throws, made six.
“We’d pass the ball across a two-guard zone and just hand them the ball for easy baskets,” Powers lamented about the ball thefts. “We got them started. We have to not have turnovers. Just getting it down to 10 turnovers would be good, and we need less than that.”
Butte High committed 22 and 17 were steals pilfered by the quick Billings West defense.
The positive for the Bulldogs was in meshing nine 3-point shots out of 20 attempts, for a fairly big-league ratio of 45 percent.
“We’re capable of some things,” Powers said. “We got a couple of nice touches down in the post and when they sat in that zone, we hit some 3s. We have to hit more. We kind of live by the 3 and die by the 3. So, we have to shoot better.”
DeVries’ scoring prowess was made up for by 17 points from Jesse Owens, 12 by Ben Tallman and 10 by Cade Tyson. Tallman captured seven rebounds to go with his 12 points coming off the bench.
An intense Butte High start had the Bulldogs playing evenly with the visitors for much of the first quarter. Butte High had a 8-5 edge after a Tommy Mellott drive for a layin, and a Trevyn Roth 3-pointer. Si Ryan then canned a 3-pointer for Billings West and tied the score with a runner from the key.
Butte HIgh tied the score 10-all on free throws by Roth and Kale McCarthy. The Golden Bears closed the frame with a 4-0 run on a steal by Tallman of an inbound pass under the basket he flicked in for two points, and on a steal-and-layin combo by Owens. Billings West was ahead by 14-10 and never looked back.
The Golden Bears broke away from an 18-15 edge with 10 straight points to end the first half and held the advantage of 28-15 midway through the game. Owens keyed the eruption with a 3-pointer and two made foul shots.
Billings West continued to widen the gap through the second half.
The style of play favored the Golden Bears’ depth while the young Butte High team generally uses seven or fewer players through the usual course of a game and does not have the experience on its bench to compensate for foul trouble.
“The game was played incredibly physical and that’s a disadvantage for us,” Powers said. “But it was called consistent, so we should’ve adapted.”
The win gave the Bears a season record of 7-8, including a 4-5 conference mark.
Butte High is 3-12 and 1-8. Roth, who came off the bench, scored 10 points and grabbed eight rebounds to pace the Bulldogs. Clay Ferguson had nine points, Ricketts scored seven, Kash Kelly six and McCarthy six each, Mellott three and Jacob Olson two. Andrew Booth, Billy Kelly, Jake Vetter and Ryan Burt also saw time.
The Bulldogs are to play Billings Senior at 4 p.m. on Saturday in the Richardson gym in another Eastern AA tilt.
BILLINGS WEST (7-8, 4-5) — Jesse Owens 4-9 8-9 17, Si Ryan 2-4 0-0 5, Carson Prokop 2-4 1-2 5, Cade Tyson 2-9 5-6 10, Kobe Nelson 1-3 0-0 2, Austin Hanna 1-2 0-0 2, Ben Tallman 4-8 3-5 12, Lucas Gibb 3-4 0-0 6, Josh Erbacher 0-3 0-0 0, Peyton Streiff 0-0 0-0 0, Kade Wilcox 0-0 2-2 2, Derek Fisher 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 19-47 19-24 61.
BUTTE HIGH (3-12, 1-8) — Kash Kelly 2-3 0-0 6, Tommy Mellott 1-4 1-2 3, Clay Ferguson 3-11 2-2 9, Kale McCarthy 2-6 1-2 6, Lathan Ricketts 2-2 1-2 7, Trevyn Roth 3-11 1-2 10, Andrew Booth 0-1 0-0 0, Jacob Olson 1-2 0-0 2, Billy Kelly 0-0 0-0 0, Jake Vetter 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Burt 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 14-40 6-10 43.
Billings West 14 14 14 19 — 61
Butte High 10 5 13 15 — 43
3-point goals — West 4-16 (Owens 1-4, Ryan 1-3, Tyson 1-3, Tallman 1-5, Erbacher 0-1), Butte 9-20 (K. Kelly 2-3, Ferguson 1-3, McCarthy 1-1, Ricketts 2-2, Roth 3-10, Booth 0-1). Fouled out — K. Kelly. Total fouls — West 14, Butte 16. Technical — Butte coach Powers. Rebounds — West 33 (Prokop 8), Butte 26 (Roth 8). Blocks — West 2 (Prokop 1, Tyson 1), Butte 0. Assists — West 10 (Owens 3, Tyson 3), Butte 10 (K. Kelly 4). Steals — West 17 (Owens 4), Butte 5 (McCarthy 2). Turnovers — West 13, Butte 22.