Maroons fight off Vikings, head into Western A semis

By Bruce Sayler

Butte Central had to keep its motor running Thursday and it wasn’t idling. The Maroons beat aggressive Bigfork 71-55 in the first round of the Western A Divisional high school boys’ basketball tournament in the Butte Civic Center.
The win sends BC into a Friday 5 p.m. semifinal round game against Browning. Bigfork will play Frenchtown in a 10:30 a.m. loser-out game. The Western A Divisional high school girls’ basketball tourney is going on, too, at the same place.
“Their effort level was relentless,” Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly said about the Vikings.
The Maroons came out firing hot coals through the nets, six 3-point baskets in the first quarter, and a 9-for-15 rate on 3-balls in the first half. Owen McPartland’s three 3-pointers in the first quarter helped BC stake a 24-10 lead. The margin grew to 21 points, 44-23 on a Zane Moodry rebound basket, with 1 minute, 32 seconds left in the first half. The difference at intermission was 44-30.
Bigfork put together two third-quarter runs to put itself back in the game. A 9-4 surge brought BC’s lead under 10 points and 7-3 rally narrowed the gap to five points, 51-46, with 1:34 let in the third quarter. The play of Colin Wade, Austin Savik and Asher Knopik ignited the Vikings’ comeback.
Butte Central freshman GG Fantini came off the Butte Central bench to drill two 3-pointers and stall the Vikings’ challenge.
“They really started to press up on us, which was forcing us to drive to the basket,” Kelly said, explaining how the Bigfork tactic took away the 3-point shot that had been so effective for the Maroons in the first half. “So, we started trying to draw charges.
“Then, GG Fantini had a big moment for us with a steal and two 3s at the end of the third quarter. They were huge for us.”
Former Maroon, 1996 Butte Central graduate John Mike Hollow, serves as the Vikings’ head coach.
Jack Jensen dropped in a layin on a high fly to the hoop for Bigfork to shrink BC’s lead to 57-50 to start the fourth quarter. It sounded an alarm for the Maroons. An 11-1 run by the Maroons, keyed by basket-and-one plays by Moodry and Jack Keeley, as they floored the accelerator and iced the win.
“The first game at divisionals is always the hardest game to play,” Kelly said. “One of the greatest challenges in coaching is that (lull) between the end of the season and tourney beginning.”
Four teams were automatic qualifiers for the divisional after placing as the top two teams in each of the two districts – Northwestern A and Southwestern A. The other half of the Western A field was determined by play-in games held last week while the automatic qualifiers waited with byes.
The Maroons had 11 days off between the games. The tournament first round also usually matches teams not so familiar with each other, adding to the mystery for coaches to solve.
Kelly had the proper detectives on the case.
“Owen scored 22 and ended up sitting (fouled out),” while commenting on the junior point guard’s “great game.” “And, our seniors, Jack and Zane, both did their jobs. “It’s a game-changer for us on their rebounds.”
Butte Central outrebounded distinctively taller Bigfork 28-20, led by Keeley’s 10 rebounds, McPartland’s seven and Moodry’s six. Keeley also finished with 18 points and Moodry with 12. Joshua Sutton scored seven points, Patrick Stimatz six and Ryan Peoples three. Coy Campbell and Parker Robertson also played.
The Maroons will take a 16-4 record into Friday’s game with Browning.
Bigfork is now 9-10 for the season. The Vikings were led by Asher Knopik with 16 points, Austin Savik with 13 and Wade with 10.
Official tournament statistics for the game follow:
BIGFORK (9-10) – Wyatt Johnson 2-2 0-0 4, Jack Jensen 4-9 0-0 8, Colin Wade 3-5 2-4 10, Cole Knopik 1-6 0-0 2, Asher Knopik 6-13 2-2 16, Alex Ochs 0-0 0-0 0, Treker Hickey 0-0 0-0 0, Austin Savik 5-10 2-2 13, Dylan Porrovecchio 0-0 0-1 0, Quinn Herring 0-0 0-0 0, Jack Lucke 1-2 0-1 2. Totals 22-47 6-10 55.
BUTTE CENTRAL (16-4) – Joshua Sutton 3-7 0-0 7, Ryan Peoples 1-5 0-0 3, Jack Keeley 6-14 4-5 18, Owen McPartland 8-10 1-1 22, Zane Moodry 5-6 2-3 12, Coy Campbell 0-0 0-0 0, Patrick Stimatz 2-4 0-0 6, Justus McGee 0-0 0-0 0, GG Fantini 1-1 0-2 3, Parker Robertson 0-1 0-2 0. Totals 26-48, 7-13 71.
Bigfork 10 20 18 .7 – 55
Butte Central 24 20 13 14 – 71
3-point goals – Bigfork 5-15 (Jensen 0-1, Wade 2-3, C. Knopik 0-3, A. Knopik 2-4, Savik 1-4), Butte Central 12-23 (Sutton 1-4, Peoples 1-4, Keeley 2-4, McPartland 5-5, Stimatz 2-4, Fantini 0-1, Robertson 1-1). Fouled out – McPartland. Total fouls – Bigfork 16, Butte Central 17. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Bigfork 20 (Johnson 7), Butte Central 28 (Keeley 10, McPartland 7). Blocks – Bigfork 1 (Jensen), Butte Central 0. Assists – Bigfork 2 (Wade 1, C. Knopik 1), Butte Central 5 (Sutton 2, McPartland 2, Stimatz 1). Steals – Bigfork 2 (Jensen 1, C. Knopik 1), Butte Central 4 (Keeley 1, McPartland 1, Fantini 1, Robertson 1). Turnovers – Bigfork 14, Butte Central 12.