Butte High’s boys’ basketball team didn’t get a win Thursday night at the Richardson Gym.
Bozeman opened and closed the game with 13-2 runs and the Hawks beat Butte High 69-52 in an Eastern AA game.
The Bulldogs, though, made a believer out of at least one man.
“They played well on both ends of the floor tonight. Hats off to them,” Bozeman coach Wes Holmquist said.
Holmquist’s Hawks crushed Butte High 81-39 Jan. 31 in Bozeman.
“That’s night and day,” the coach said. “I told the kids after the game, ‘That’s a completely different team than we saw at our place.’ Terry (Hauser) is doing a good job with them.”
Despite the early hole, the Bulldogs made the Hawks (11-8 overall and 7-4 in conference) sweat out the victory.
Butte High outscored Bozeman in the middle two quarters, pulling into within three points late in the third quarter.
Sophomore Bryan Smith, who came off the bench to score 12 points, hit a bucket with 8 seconds left in the third to pull Butte High to 45-42.
The Hawks answered with a momentum-slowing buzzer-beater by Cody Bender, who swished a jumper from beyond NBA 3-point range.
Bozeman opened the final stanza with a 3-point play by Riley Malott, who scored off a nice pass from Oliver Carr to make it 51-42
Butte High regrouped, cutting the lead to 51-47 when Jake Dennehy drove for a hoop and Dallas Cook scored on a rebound.
The Hawks, though, again answered with a long ball, this time from Caleb Weidenaar.
Butte High crawled back to within six points and 56-50 on a Smith free throw with 4:09 left in the game.
Then Malott scored off a Nick Hostetler pass to start game-ending 13-2 run.
“We played well tonight. It was just a few opportunities that we missed,” said Hauser, Butte High’s first-year head coach. “Down the stretch, they scored on every opportunity they had to and we missed every shot.”
Carr scored 23 points to lead all scorers. Weidenaar and Malott each tossed in 12 points.
“One thing that we’ve been focusing on all year is finishing and closing. Tonight we did a really good job,” Holmquist said. “We kept telling the kids if we keep pushing the ball we’ll wear them down, and we finally got some transition looks down the stretch.”
“They’re a really good team,” Hauser said of the Hawks. “They’ve got great inside shooters, they’ve got a great inside game. They competed.”
Peter Granger joined Smith with 12 points for Butte High. Cook scored seven points, while Bunney tossed in six. Also, Dennehy, Cory Fastveet and Kyle Peterson scored four points and Dalton Daum dropped in three.
Hauser wasn’t one for moral victories after his team fell to 3-16 and 1-10. The coach, though, acknowledged what the Bulldog and Hawk fans saw Tuesday night. The Bulldogs competed.
The Hawks could potentially see that team compete again next week in the playoffs.
If so, Hauser said his team should have some confidence going into a winner-goes-to-state showdown.
“We showed the kids that we can play with them, and it is possible to beat those guys,” Hauser said. “We were so close so many times this year to knocking off a good team. Hopefully that opportunity will come in the playoff game.”
Butte High closes out the regular season Friday night against Billings Senior. That game is at the Butte Civic Center.
BOZEMAN (11-8, 7-4) — Cody Bender 4 0-0 10, Caleb Weidenaar 5 0-0 12, Will Dissly 1 0-2 3, Riley Malott 5 2-2 12, Oliver Carr 9 5-7 23, Chris Johnson 2 0-0 4, Dylan Grubb 1 0-0 3, Nick Hostetler 1 0-0 2. Totals 28-7-11 69.
BUTTE HIGH (1-10, 3-16) — Jake Dennehy 2 0-1 4, Peter Granger 4 4-5 12, Zach Bunney 2 1-2 6, Cory Farstveet 2 0-0 4, Dallas Cook 3 1-2 7, Brian Smith 4 2-5 12, Kyle Peterson 2 0-0 4, Dalton Daum 1 0-0 3. Totals 20 8-15 52.
Bozeman 18 15 15 21 — 69
Butte 7 19 16 10 — 52
3-point goals — Bozeman 6 (Bender 2, Weidenaar 2, Dissly, Malott), Butte 4 (Smith 2, Bunney, Daum). Fouls — Bozeman 18, Butte 17. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.