Locomotives start fast, down Maroons in semifinals

By Derek Hendrickson

BOZEMAN — The Laurel Locomotives will play for the Class A State Championship after holding off the Butte Central Maroons 58-55 Friday night at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse. Stats

Laurel led wire to wire as they took the opening tip and Cooper Love drilled one of his two first quarter 3-pointers for a lead that was never overcome by the Maroons.

A day after the Central defense was the story this game centered around the Locomotive’s patient offense that probed until finding an open look, converting on 12 of 17 in the first half field goals for a 71 percent clip that would stake them to a 32-19 lead at the intermission.

Central never gave up and put together several runs that got them back within striking distance but they never could seem to hit the clutch shot that would have sent the Maroon crowd into a frenzy. The best chance came with under 3 minutes left in the game and Laurel up 50-45. Central had two straight possessions with good looks at trifectas but neither found their way to the bottom of the well and the Locomotives managed to hit just enough free throws to keep the game at two possessions until Dalton Sessions put in the final points with a last second lay-in.

Maroon head coach Brodie Kelly talked about his team after the game and what he felt was the problem for them offensively.

“I didn’t think our offense was very cohesive tonight,” Kelly said.  “I thought our offense was really gutsy tonight.  I thought we made key shots and tough shots but I didn’t think we were very cohesive.  We weren’t making the extra pass, there were a lot of times we got the ball into the interior and there were shots available inside out and we talked about that.  We just weren’t making that pass.  I don’t fault our guys, it certainly wasn’t out of selfishness I think it was out of our guys trying to make a play in a big moment, trying to draw a foul or get to the rack.  I think if we would have made one more pass we would have had better shots tonight.  Laurel defends so well you’ve got to be willing to do that.”

The major contributor was Zac Allen for the Locomotives.  He poured in a game-high 26 points which was greatly aided by his counterpart, Marcus Ferriter being stuck on the bench with foul trouble before eventually getting disqualified early in the fourth.

Allen came up big in both of the battles vs. the Maroons this year and that was something Kelly spoke about.

“I think Allen has been a monster against us twice and I think he’s done it twice going against one of the better players in the state in Ferriter,” Kelly said.  “Marcus is a great player and Zac did a good job against him both times on both ends of the floor.  He posts hard, he rebounds hard.  He had a lot to do with that win tonight but I think their guards played well, I thought their penetration hurt us, especially in the first half, Thompson was good.”

Without the Maroons’ best inside presence Allen was unstoppable, which Central fans have certainly seem examples of throughout Ferriter’s outstanding career.

The Maroons tried to find a spark without the inside game that carried them in their first round win over Columbia Falls, but as Kelly said the Maroons struggled to make the extra pass and because of that a lot of shots were contested.

Danny Peoples stepped up and hit on seven field goal attempts along with four from downtown to lead Central with 18 points but unfortunately was the recipient of a monster blocked shot by Allen late in the game on a three-point attempt.  The play was a microcosm of the entire night for the Maroons as the loose ball fell right into Allen’s hands and he was fouled and pushed Laurel’s lead back to eight with less than 2 minutes to go.

Sessions recorded a gritty double-double with 12 points and 11 boards despite being vastly undersized against the big front line of Laurel.

The game was played in an amazingly clean fashion as the teams totaled only eight turnovers between them, six coming in the first half.

The lack of tips and easy baskets was a major contrast between tonight’s game and yesterday afternoon’s comeback win for Central.  Kelly gave praise to the Locomotives after the win, saying “one thing they deserve credit for is they are so solid fundamentally.  We were really working hard to get deflections and man, they are hard to get against them, without reaching it’s really hard to get turnovers against that team.”

The Maroons will match up against the last team to beat the Locomotives on Saturday morning at 9:30 against Billings Central as they try to get back to the third place game tomorrow night at 6:30.

Laurel will try to do something that no Class A team has done all season and defeat the Dillon Beavers, although both of their state opponents have come very close, including Havre having a last second three to win misfire in the 2nd semifinal.

The Maroons got eight points each from Ferriter and Chad Peterson, 3 apiece from Cole Harper and Nate McGree, two from Cal Hollow and one by Kyle Harrington.  Tanner Kump also got some minutes in the first half.

Laurel relied heavily on Allen as he was their only double digit scorer.  Love added nine, Tyler Thompson and Marshall Simanton both had seven, Christian Jones scored five and Brandon Kubitz added four to help the Locomotives back to their first championship game since winning it all in 2010.

Laurel had advanced to each of the five semifinals since that season and lost to the eventual champion in the previous four attempts.

Central will try to bring home their first state hardware in hoops since the 2011 season when they finished third on this same floor, knocking off Laurel in that contest.