By Bruce Sayler
Few times has a third quarter been so important to a basketball team.
A Kyle Holter-keyed explosion for Butte Central in the period rescued the Maroons a 67-50 first-round win over Ronan Thursday in the Western A Divisional high school boys’ basketball tournament at the Butte Civic Center. (Stats)
Ronan looked in control at halftime, though leading by only 30-23. The talented and athletic Chiefs were receiving a big game from sharpshooter Leonard Burke and seemed like they should be leading by more and be on their way to victory. They had gained an 11-point (21-10) margin on Burke 3-pointer from the outer limits with 5:18 left in the first half.
The Chiefs, though, then vacated center stage after intermission.
Holter, Drew Badovinac and Dougie Peoples centered a big comeback for BC.
“I keep saying ‘wow’’ to these guys,” Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly said. “Kyle Holter made us change the game with his hustle in the third quarter.”
The couple of steals, rebounds and assists in the frame would’ve probably been enough to ignite the Maroons’ fire, but he also scored 11 of his 16 points in the quarter.
It didn’t happen right away, either.
Holter, a 6-foot sophore, knocked down a mid-range jumper at the start of the second half, but then Ronan ran off six points in a row as Burke sandwich a couple of jumpers around an inside basket by Payton Cates. The Chiefs had grown their lead to 36-25 with 4 minutes, 45 seconds left in the third period.hen,
Then the eruption occurred.
Holter netted a free throw and Bryan Holland swished a jumper from just inside the 3-point arc. Holter then worked a steal for a layup and got control of the ball for a three-point play the next possession. The BC boys were within three points of Ronan, 36-33.
Egan Lester then fired in a 3-point basket for Butte Central to tie the4 score and Holter gave the Maroons the lead with another basket-and-one play that capped his team’s 14-0 run.
Zarec Couture connected from 12 feet for the Chiefs, but BC then closed the quarter with four consecutive baskets by Peoples, who wound up the game’s high scorer with 25 points.
Butte Central owned a 43-38 advantage going into the last quarter.
“We were dead, lethargic in the first half,” Kelly said. “Ronan is an extremely athletic team. Leonard Burke is an outstanding player, who can shoot from anywhere and he got it going early against us.”
Kelly changed the defense so that the 6-foot Badovinac was the primary defender on the 5-11 Burke.
“(Badovinac) gave us a little more length, being a little taller than (5-8) Bryson (Sestrich) and did a nice job challenging (Burke’s) shot,” Kelly said. “Drew was being aware of where (Burke) was.”
Burke had trouble launching shots over the taller defender and was held to seven points in the second half.
The Butte Central surge that ended the third quarter resumed to begin the fourth. Badovinac canned a 3-ponter then Peoples, a 6-2 junior, found his driving lane and scored on the first of a series of key busters he performed in the period. Peoples scored 10 points in the win-clinching fourth quarter for the Maroons.
Peoples glassed in another layup and then meshed two free throws and BC had a 29-5 run between 4:34 of the third quarter and 4:50 of the fourth.
Holter, Peoples and Badovinac went a combined 13-for-15 from the foul line in the last 4:50 of the game as Butte Central secured a Friday 7 p.m. semifinal round game berth. The winner of the Thursday night Columbia Falls-Dillon game will be the opponent.
“In the first half, I thought we played terrible basketball,” Kelly said. “We lacked energy and attack capacity.
“Dougie did a nice job for us in the second half with his drives.”
A couple of the drives were length-of–court.
The Maroons wound up shooting a sizzling 61 percent for the game, 80 percent in the second half. They were 6-for-13 from 3-point range and 19-for-27 from the charity stripe.
Holland and Badovinac notched 10 points each to give BC four scorers in double figures. Sestrich and Lester had three points each, and Isaac Sholey, Joseph Sehulster, John Fisher, Konnor Pochervina and Rye Doherty also saw action.
The win put the third-seeded Maroons from the Western A Southern District at 11-6 for the season.
Ronan, now 9-7, will play a 1 p.m. loser-out game on Friday. The Chiefs were led on Thursday by Burke’s 23 points and seven apiece from Zarec Couture and Elijah Tonasket. Ronan is the No. 2 seed from the Western A Northern District.