By Bill Foley
Cole Harper wasn’t going to let his last game at the Maroon Activities Center go without a fight.
The Butte Central senior scored 15 of his game-high 22 points in the second half Thursday night to lead the Maroons to a 57-52 overtime victory over Belgrade. The victory came on Senior Parent Night, in which Harper and classmate Tyler Kump were honored before the game.
“We all just wanted to get this last win here,” Harper said after the Maroons won their second straight to head into next week’s Western A Divisional tournament on a high note. “We felt determined, and we wanted to grit that out.”
Harper hit six 3-ponters, five of which came in the second half. Four came in the fourth quarter or overtime.
“I couldn’t be more proud of Cole tonight,” BC coach Brodie Kelly said. “That was awesome. It was a big deal for Cole and Tyler to get a win on Senior Night. Cole refused to lose the game, and he hit some big shots.”
A game that didn’t see a lead change for nearly 19 minutes of action, saw 10 lead changes in the fourth quarter before the teams went to the extra period tied at 50.
The Panthers led 13-9 after the first quarter, 23-22 at halftime and 35-31 after three quarters.
Junior Nate McGree drove for a hoop to put the Maroons up 36-35 with 7 minutes, 12 seconds left in the game. Then, the back-and-forth battle was one.
Brock Salsbury, who hit three 3-poitners and scored 13 points, answered for the panthers 18 seconds later.
Then McGree answered. Then Morgan Eitel answered. And so on.
Harper buried a 3-ponter to put the Maroons up 50-48 with 1:18 left in the game. With 46 seconds left, Eitel, who also scored 13 points hit two free throws to tie the game.
The Panthers got the ball back quickly on a turnover that saw Belgrade guard Matt Walker dive for the loose ball.
Belgrade played for the last shot, but the defense of freshman Cade Holter forced a turnover. BC, though, couldn’t capitalize on the heady play as McGree’s contested shot at the jumper bounced in and out.
Holter opened overtime by hitting 1 of 2 free throws to put the Maroons on top for good. The freshman also forced a jump and grabbed a huge rebound before Harper sank his sixth 3-pointer, and this lead-change business was done.
“Holter was determined,” Harper said of his younger teammate. “He’s a scrappy player. He’s really intense. He’s a freshman, too. It’s crazy to see that.”
Kelly also praised Holter, whose game was much bigger than the five points he put in the score book.
“The bottom line is you’ve got to win games like this in tournament time,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to win ugly. You’ve got to make tough, grind-out plays at the end. Cade Holter, I think that is exactly what he did in overtime.
“That kid’s got so much heart,” Kelly added. “He is so competitive, and that is the epitome of what you’ve got to do to win tournament games.”
In all, eight Butte Central players scored in the win. Harper was the only one to reach double figures.
McGree tossed in nine points. Tanner Kump scored seven, while Sam Johnston joined Holter with five, Archie Petritz tossed in four, Dan McClafferty netted three and Riley Richardson scored two.
Trey Layman scored 12 of his team-leading 14 points in the first half. Belgrade, which fell to 11-7, also got seven pints from Tanner Campbell, three from Kaden Arneson and two from Walker.
BC improved to 10-8, and the Maroons are officially out of their late-season funk as they head to the Super Divisional, which starts Wednesday at the Butte Civic Center. The Maroons don’t play until Thursday.
“It was huge,” said Kelly, whose Maroons followed last Thursday’s loss to Butte High with a win at Corvallis on Saturday. “That was two in a row that were similar, two just grind-it-out, gutsy wins.”
BC’s loss at Belgrade late last month started a five-game losing streak that ran through the Butte High game.
That loss was also on Harper’s mind heading into his last game at the MAC.
“We were just talking about how much we need this win,” he said. “We actually lost to those guys down there, and that’s what started our little drought.”
BELGRADE (11-7) — Brock Salsbury 5 0-0 13, Kaden Arneson 1 1-1 3, Trey Layman 7 0-0 14, Tanner Campbell 3 1-1 7, Morgan Eitel 5 3-5 13, Hayden VanWinkle 0 0-0 0 Matt Walker 1 0-0 2. Totals 22 5-7 52.
BUTTE CENTRAL (10-8) — Sam Johnston 0 5-6 6, Nate McGree 2 5-13 9, Cole Harper 8 0-0 22, Tyler Kump 0 0-0 0, Tanner Kump 2 1-2 7, Riley Ricahrdson 1 0-0 2, Archie Petritz 2 0-0 4, Cade Holter 2 1-2 5, Dan McCloskey 1 0-0 3. Totals 18 12-23 57.
Belgrade 13 10 12 15 2 — 52
Butte Central 9 13 9 19 7 — 57
3-point goals — Belgrade 3 (Salsbury 3), BC 9 (Harper 6, Tanner Kump 2, McCloskey). Fouls — Belgrade 15, BC 9 .Fouled out — Layman.