By Derek Hendricks
for Butte Sports
The last several years have seen the Butte Central Maroons and Hamilton Broncs battle to wire in close games with the stakes high. Friday had the high stakes as the winner would have the inside track on either the two or three seed in the Southwestern A Conference guaranteeing at least or home playoff game or moving straight to the Western A Divisional next weekend in Butte.
The close game? Not so much.
The defending champing Maroons jumped out to a 9-0 lead and never looked back on their way to resounding 61-36 win at the Maroon Activities Center.
Longtime Maroon head coach Brodie Kelly referenced that Corvallis game and his comments show how his team is peaking and improving just in time for the postseason push that has become a signature of BC teams.
“I am just thrilled with the way that they played,” Kelly said. “I said last Saturday (against Corvallis) we played our best game, but this topped that. Outstanding basketball on both ends of the floor. Hamilton’s a very good defensive basketball team, it’s especially hard to get good looks on them and I thought we executed well. Collectively, when we are shooting the ball like that and playing with that kind of enthusiasm, it was awesome, it was a lot of fun for these guys.”
The Maroons have had several players step up at different times this year as they’ve looked to find their own identity after graduating a well decorated class of seniors. Bryson Sestrich had a monster game last Saturday against Corvallis. Dougie Peoples has been among the leading scorers for Class A all season. Kyle Holter’s all-around efforts fill the stat sheet.
Friday, it was Egan Lester who was the spark plug, scoring all of his 12 points on threes and becoming more excited after each as he looked to his bench to pump up his teammates. Three of the triples came in the first half as Central pushed their early lead to 34-20 at the break.
“He was the man tonight, and you know he’s been guarding the other team’s best player most games and he’s adjusted his role for us this year for us but he’s still got that shot,” Kelly said of Egan, a future Montana Tech football player. “It was really fun to see him shoot the ball like that because he does bring a whole other level of emotion and when he’s hitting shots like that I feel like we are really hard to guard.”
Lester was backed by the stifling defense of fellow senior Bryan “Hugo” Holland, who, despite being five inches smaller than the opposing center, Tyler Burrows, forced the Hamilton big man into a tough night shooting as he could only muster two points despite having numerous attempts one-on-one against Hugo, The matchup is definitely one that showed Hugo’s own football chops, as he was the immovable object, which will be more than welcomed on the Carroll gridiron next fall.
Holland, who had four points, also provided several easy baskets for the rest of Maroons as almost every bucket public address announcer CD Holter called out had both the recipient and the giver of the unselfish plays near the Bronc hoop echoing through the gym.
Kelly also made sure to point out Holland’s defensive effort.
“Hamilton also plays disciplined offense and our guys did a nice job anticipating, disrupting their flow a little bit,” Kelly said. “I thought Hugo did an awesome job on Burrows.”
The usual suspects of course stepped up in the win as Peoples poured in a game-high 17 points, frequently using his long strides to get past defenders and find unguardable angles for easy lay-ins.
Sestrich also got all his points from behind the arc, hitting one three ball in each of the first three quarters for his 9 points. He likely would’ve kept that run going had both coaches not cleared the bench with about three-and-a-half minutes left in the game and a close battle from earlier in the evening resumed between the JV players.
Holter chipped in 8 to go with his scrappy defense.
Regular rotation Maroons Konnor Pochervina added four and Drew Badovinac drilled a three to round out Central’s big game that saw them light up the scoreboard for 17, 17 and 19 points in the first three quarters respectively.
The execution Kelly referenced resulted in nine threes that outmatched Hamilton’s output in made two-point field goals by one. The Broncs did hit for five threes themselves, but two came from the late game reserves with the outcome long since decided.
The win also gave the Maroons a series sweep of their rival Broncs as Central eked out a 60-54 overtime affair in Hamilton in late January, which was certainly the type of game everyone expect to see between two teams that had played eight times the past two years with four of those games being in postseason.
The Broncs were lead by Eli Taylor, who tossed in 12, many of which came on difficult, contested shots. Sestrich drew much of the guarding the Hamilton sophomore and more than held up his end of the bargain.
Central will head to Frenchtown Saturday in another game with huge implications on the playoff situation. Should the Maroons win, they would forego the play-in game Monday and move straight into the Divisional bracket.
“Just huge,” Kelly said of Friday’s win. “We both knew this was a very meaningful game for both of us and to know that we don’t have to go on the road Monday is huge. We are really hoping to get that bye and if you would told us when we were sitting at 2-4, both regularly and in the conference at one time that we would have a chance to control our own destiny for the bye, we’ll take it”
A loss would likely mean a third game against Stevensville in Butte Monday evening. The Yellowjackets are a team the Maroons have bullied twice in lopsided decisions this season.
HAMILTON (7-8, 4-6) — Tanner Hanson 0 0-0 0, Austin Drake 3 0-0 7, Liam O’Connell 2 2-2 6, Eli Taylor 0 0-0 0, Tyler Burrows 1 0- 2, Colter Kirkland 0 1-2 1, Cole Dickemore 2 0-0 6, Max Cianflone 5 0-0 12, Zach Kunkel 0 2-2 2, Andrew Burrows 0 0-0 0. Totals 13 5-6 13.
BUTTE CENTRAL (9-5, 5-4) — Bryson Sestrich 3 0-0 9, Dougie Peoples 7 2-2 17, Egan Lester 4 0-0 12, Kyle Holter 4 0-0 8, Bryan Holland 1 2-2 4, Konnor Pochervina 2 0-0 4, Drew Badovinac 1 0-0 3, Isaac Sholey 0 0-0 0, Joseph Sehulster 2 0-0 4, George Riojas 0 0-0 0, Rye Doherty 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 4-4 61.
Hamilton 12 8 8 8 — 36
Central 17 17 19 8 — 61
3-point goals — Hamilton 5 (Cianflone 2, Dickemore 2, Drake), BC 9 (Lester 4, Sestrich 3, Peoples, Badovinac). Fouls — Hamilton 12, BC 10. Fouled out — none. Technical — Taylor.