By Derek Hendrickson
CORVALLIS — The Butte Central Maroons finally got back in the win column with a hard fought 61-53 victory over the Corvallis Blue Devils Saturday afternoon.
Central exploded for 27 points in the fourth quarter to pull away after the Blue Devils had led after each of the three quarters.
The win snapped a five-game losing streak and was also the last Southwestern Conference game on the slate for the Maroons. They improved to 9-8 overall and finished 4-4 in conference.
The key stat was 46 trips to the line for BC, as the Maroon shooting touch was cold all game long. They were unable to connect on any of their three point attempts and almost all of their 15 field goals came at the rim.
Nate McGree had another stellar game for Central, leading everyone with 25 points to go with eight rebounds and three steals. He also found his way to the line 17 times, connecting on 11
Knowing they weren’t hitting from the floor Central became relentless in pushing their way into the paint. They were also fired up on defense and got several steals and run out opportunities to spark the comeback win.
Maroon head coach Brodie Kelly talked about the differences between his team pulling out the win Saturday compared to some of the close defeats during the recent losing streak.
“It was all about guts and toughness today, finding a way to get it done,” Kelly said. “It was ugly, but we just kept grinding on defense and got some deflections. I guess the best thing about this game was how we just kept attacking the rim. We weren’t making perimeter shots so we were understanding that and we got into the lane. We had to manufacture points somehow.”
Through three quarters Central struggled from the charity stripe as well, going only 12 for 26. Everything clicked in the final frame as the Maroons put up a sparkling 19 of 20 on the line to overtake Corvallis and hold off any comeback attempts.
The Maroons overcame another horrible opening few minutes as the Blue Devils raced to a 14-2 lead highlighted by a 6 point possession for senior Dillon Lewis. On that exchange Lewis drained a three and Corvallis was awarded possession when a foul was called on the follow through. Lewis found himself open again at the top of the key and rattled in a second triple.
The Maroons called a timeout and started to right the ship, escaping the quarter down 16-6.
Kelly praised the effort of the Blue Devils, who fell to 6-11 on the season and 1-6 in conference.
“Give them a ton of credit,” he said. “They executed really well to start, they guarded hard, they were attacking, they played tough.”
A 6-0 surge to open the second got Central within striking distance and they briefly took the lead at 19-18 when Sam “Stu” Johnston had an old fashioned three point play.
Junior point guard Tylor Nixon had 8 in the second quarter and pushed Corvallis back on top as he and Caleb Powell both had steals for break away layups and gave the Blue Devils a 26-21 edge at halftime.
Nixon poured in 23 to lead the Blue Devils, including a 12 of 14 effort on free throws as the game was tightly officiated. Down the stretch it became a war of attrition as the Maroons lost Johnston to fouls and Corvallis saw 3 players disqualified.
The second quarter was the first extensive playing time on the season for freshman guard Dan McCloskey. He managed one rebound while playing about half the quarter and played strong on ball defense.
Central’s onslaught of the key started in the third as they were able to get to stripe 16 times but could only sink 7 in the quarter. That was enough to keep them close but the Blue Devils held a 38-34 advantage heading to the 4th.
The final period opened with a 6-0 McGree run, 4 on free throws and then the lead taking layup, making it 40-38.
Corvallis retook the lead when Tannon Allred scored from in close to make it 44-43 but Johnston gave the Maroons the lead for good at 45-44 on a bucket and Cade Holter’s and-one extended the lead to 3.
Nixon’s hoop and the harm got Corvallis back to within one at 50-49 but McGree scored 5 straight for Central and Tanner Kump iced the game with a perfect 6 of 6 from the line.
Johnston had one of his better offensive games, scoring 13 points, to go with his usual suffocating defense. He also had 3 steals, all of which led directly to offensive opportunities. Kump had all eight of his from the line without a miss. Freshman Cade Holter also put in 8 and had several hustle plays that helped him swipe 3 offensive rebounds. Cole Harper had 6 and Archie Petritz added one to round out the Central scoring. Riley Richardson logged minutes for the Maroons, adding a rebound and an assist to the stat sheet. Tyler Kump also contributed to the win.
The Maroons have one regular season game left, Thursday at home against Belgrade, which overcame a 17 point third quarter deficit last month to shock Central and start the five game skid.
BC will hold Senior Parent Night for Harper as well as girls’ -players Sierra Pica and Kate Ossello. The girls will tip off at 6 p.m., and the boy’s game will follow around 7:30.
BUTTE CENTRAL (9-8, 4-4) — Sam Johnston 3 7-10 13, Nate McGree 7 11-17 25, Cole Harper 2 2-2 6, Tanner Kump 0 8-8 8, Riley Richardson 0 0-0 0, Archie Petritz 0 1-2 1, Cade Holter 3 2-5 8, Tyler Kump 0 0-0 0, Dan McCloskey 0 0-0 0. Totals15 31-46 61.
CORVALLIS (6-10, 1-5) — Danner Miller 1 0-0 2, Dillon Lewis 4 0-0 10, Caleb Powell 2 1-2 6, Jacob Greary 0 0-0 0, Ridge Albright 0 0-1 0, Spencer Jessop 1 0-2 2, Tylor Nixon 5 12-14 23, Justin Catanach 3 0-1 6, Tannon Allred 2 0-0 4. Totals 18 13-20 53.
Butte Central 6 15 13 27 — 61
Corvallis 16 10 12 15 — 53
3-point goals — BC none, Corvallis 4 (Lewis 2, Powell 1, Nixon 1). Fouls — BC 21, Corvallis 29. Fouled out — Johnston, Powell, Greary, Nixon.