Hot-shooting Rams top Maroons in semifinal

BILLINGS  — The first clue that Friday night did not belong to the Maroons came early at the Rimrock Auto Arena.

The Billings Central Rams came out and hit on seven of their first eight 3-point attempts, and the hometown team never trailed in a 54-41 win in the semifinals of the Class A State boys’ basketball tournament.

The 3-point shots came as Butte Central was geared up to slow down Billings Central big men Daniel Meyer and Dylan Hanser. Meyer is 6 foot 9, while Hanser is 6-5.

Instead, the Rams dialed in from down town in the wire-to-wire victory.

“We were really focused on keeping the ball out of the paint,” Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly said. “When they hit those threes on us early, that’s not what we were looking for.”

Hanser hit on all three of his 3-point attempts. He was 5 for 5 from the field, scoring a game-high 15 points.

Two of Hanser’s bombs came in an 19-8 first-quarter run.

“It was not our night tonight,” Kelly said. “It certainly just didn’t feel like it was our night.”

While the Rams were on fire — shooting 67 percent from the field — the Maroons were ice cold. Butte Central shot 2 of 22 from the 3-point line.

“Shooting 22 three-point attempts was uncharacteristic of us. That’s way too many,” Kelly said. “In the third and fourth quarter we were settling for 3-pointers when we still had time to get back into it and get into the lane.”

Of course, the two 3-pointers Butte Central fans will point to are not the ones that show up on the state sheet.

Junior Kale Guldseth buried 3-pointers on consecutive trips down the court that could have sparked a Maroon run. Both, however, were wiped out by fouls away from the ball — one on each team.

“They were both bang-bang plays, and those were unfortunate,” Kelly said.

That unfortunate turn of events for the Maroons killed what was a 7-0 run, and the Rams closed the second half with a 9-3 streak to take a 28-18 lead into the break.

Senior Brady Tippett tried to give Butte Central life early by driving and converting a three-point play. However, that play was sandwiched by a pair of Blayne Sandau 3-pointers.

Billings Central led 38-25, and the Maroons lost big man Marcus Ferriter to fouls after a pair of quick whistles late in the third. The Rams put the game away with a 9-1 run — highlighted by a steal and a dunk by Hanser — to open the final frame.

Jacob Stanton scored 11 points and dished out eight assists for the Rams. Blayne Sandau and Meyer each scored nine.

“You’ve got to credit them for knocking down shots,” Kelly said. “I was happy with our effort. We forced 24 turnovers and played hard to the end tonight. But man our offense was just struggling.

“That’s as poor as we’ve ever shot,” Kelly added. “I will say that some of those threes weren’t squared up or were off balance. We could have looked for better shots.”

Tippett scored 10 points to lead BC. Guldseth and Dalton Sessions both scored nine, while Nate Bolstad scored four and Danny Peoples, Conner McGree and Chad Peterson each scored three. Wyatt Kingston, Emmett McCarthy, Sean Burt and Dylan Goodell also played for the Maroons.

The Rams, who haven’t won the State title since 1996, will play Stevensville, which beat Laurel 52-49 in the other semifinal, in Saturday’s 8 p.m. title game. Stevensville has never won it all.

The Maroons, still in search of their first title since 1992, will now turn their attention to third place. They’ll play Columbia Falls at 11 a.m. Saturday in a loser-out game. The winner of that game will play for third against the winner of the 9:30 a.m. game between Laurel and Belgrade.

The third-place game is at 6:30 p.m., and Kelly said his team will battle to be in it.

“I think we’re all thankful that we have another day to play,” Kelly said. “This would not be the way we want to end our season.”

BILLINGS CENTRAL (16-6) — Jacob Stanton 3-4 5-8 11, Garrett Flaming 1-2 0-2 3, Connor Cerkovnik 1-1 1-2 3, Blayne Sandau 3-7 0-0 9, Daniel Meyer 4-7 1-2 9, Dylan Hanser 5-5 2-2 15, Colin Holetz 1-1 0-0 2, Bryce Hawbaker 0-0 2-2 2, Holden Ryan 0-0 0-0 0,Camden Caraveau 0-0 0-2 0, Ian Byorth 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-27 11-20 54.
BUTTE CENTRAL (15-8) — Kale Guldseth 2-9 4-5 9, Conner McGree 0-0 3-4 3, Brady Tippett 3-8 4-8 10, Marcus Ferriter 0-2 0-0 0, Nate Bolstad 2-6 0-2 4, Danny Peoples 1-7 1-2 3, Dalton Sessions 2-2 5-7 9, Emmett McCarthy 0-0 0-0 0, Wyatt Kingston 0-0 0-0 0, Sean Burt 0-0 0-0 0, Dylan Goodell 0-0 0-0 0, Chad Peterson 1-3 0-0 3. Totals 11-37 17-28 41.
Billings            19   9   10   16 — 54
Butte               8   10    7   16 — 41

3-point goals — Billings 7-11 (Sandau 3-6, Hanse 3-3, Flaming 1-2), Butte 2-22 (Guldseth 1-5, Peterson 1-3, Peoples 0-6, Tippett 0-4, Bolstad 0-4). Rebounds — Billings 29 (Stanton 6), Butte 14 (Tippett 4). Assists — Billings 14 (Stanton 8), Butte 5 (Tippett 2). Steals — Bilings 4 (Hanser 2), Butte 6 (McGree 2, Sessions 2). Blocks — Billings 1 (Meyer), Butte 1 (Peoples). Fouls — Bllings 24, Butte 21. Fouled out — Ferriter. Technicals — none.