RONAN — Butte Central’s boys’ basketball team will play in the Class A State tournament.
Senior Braden Harrington hit two free throws with 10.8 seconds left this morning to lift the Maroons to a 41-40 win over Hamilton in a loser-out game at the Western A Divisional tournament at Ronan High School.
The win sends the Maroons the 3:30 p.m. third-place game against Polson, which beat Whitefish 50-44 in the other morning game, and to Billings in two weeks. Hamilton’s season is over. (Bracket)
The trip to state will be the sixth straight and 14th in 16 years under head coach Brodie Kelly.
The state tournament is March 12-14 at the Metra in Billings.
“That was unbelievable,” Kelly said. “I don’t know how we pulled it off.”
The Central-Hamilton battle was the eighth in the last 14 months. BC won five of those games. Four of the games were in the postseason, and Central is 3-1 in those contests.
Central responded to the early wake-up call with a fast start, jumping out to a 16-9 lead.
Any chances of an easy victory, though, were quickly ended when Hamilton outscored BC 13-4 in the second quarter, taking a 22-20 lead into halftime.
The Maroons (17-4) led 32-30 going into the fourth quarter, and the game was in Hamilton’s hands when the Broncs went to the free throw line with 11 seconds left looking to extend a 40-39 lead.
A Hamilton player, though, missed both free throws, and Harrington was fouled while pulling down the rebound. He calmly went to the other end of the court on the double bonus and sank the game-tying shot and the game-winner.
“The guts that it took for Braden to make those free throws was unbelievable,” Kelly said, referring to Friday’s 3-for-13 effort from the line for BC. “The way we have been shooting free throws for the last eight quarters, and for him to make those took guts.”
After a time out, the Maroons forced a turnover out of bounds with 1.6 seconds left. The Maroons launched a long inbound pass that was tipped away as time ran out, and BC’s bench erupted onto the court to celebrate the win.
Less than 24 hours after missed free throws sank the Maroons in a semifinal loss to Frenchtown, BC connected on 11 of 18 shots from the stripe. Harrington sank 5 of 6 attempts on his way to seven points.
Trevor Neumann and Luke Heaphy each hit a pair of 3-pointers in the win. Neumann scored a team-high 10 points, and Heaphy scored nine.
Jared Simkins tossed in six points for BC, while his twin brother Matt scored five. Bryan Holland came off the bench to score four points.
Gator Yelenich and Aaron Richards also contributed for BC.
Hamilton senior Carson Rostad was 3 for 3 from 3-point range and scored 17 points in the final game of his remarkable career. Classmate Trey Searle scored 10 for Hamilton, which closes the season at 16-5.
Kelly pointed to “big shots” by Neumann and the drive of Matt Simkins.
“He kept the ball alive so many times on the offensive glass,” the coach said of Matt Simkins. “He just made a lot of hustle plays. He wasn’t going to let us down.”
Kelly also praised the play of Holland, aka “Hugo,” for his lift off the bench.
“It was a great response from all these kids after last night,” Kelly said. “We dealt with so much adversity over the last 16 hours.”
BUTTE CENTRAL (17-4) — Jared Simkins 1 4-7 6, Luke Heaphy 3 2-3 9, Matt Simkins 2 1-2 5, Braden Harrington 1 5-6 7, Trevor Neumann 4 0-0 10, Gator Yelenich 0 0-0 0, Bryan Holland 2 0-1 4, Ryan Wahl 0 0-0 0, Aaron Richards 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 11-18 41.
HAMILTON (16-5) — Carson Rostad 5 4-4 17, Austin Drake 1 0-4, Josh Dickemore 1 0-0 2, Tyson Rostad 1 1-2 3, Tristen Hanson 0 5-6 5, Eli Taylor 0 0-0 0, 3 4-5 10, Tayler Burrows 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 15-22 40.
Butte Central 16 4 12 9 — 41
Hamilton 9 13 8 10 — 40
3-point goals — BC 4 (Heaphy 2, Neumann 2), Hamilton 3 (C. Rostad 3). Fouls — BC 20, Hamilton 18. Fouled out — J. Simkins, C. Rostad. Technicals — none.