If Kale Guldseth didn’t make that play, they’d probably still be playing.
The Butte Central junior stole the ball and converted a 3-point play with 13.8 seconds left in triple overtime Friday night as Maroons beat Dillon 38-35 in a battle for the ages at a packed Maroon Activities Center.
The Beavers were stalling for the final shot of the third 4-minute overtime of the Southwestern A Divisional semifinal game when Guldseth made his move.
He said it was a move that came from preparation.
“They ran the play that, you know, we knew it was coming,” Guldseth said. “Brodie (Kelly) stressed that in practice when they’re stalling. I kind of just jumped out and got a hand on the ball and took it in for a layup.”
That play lifts the Maroons to the tournament championship game and on the doorstep of the Class A State tournament, which is in two weeks in Billings.
The steal also ended a game that left fans from both sides scratching their heads trying to figure out what they had just witnessed.
Butte Central outscored Dillon, the defending Class A State champion, 7-4 in the third overtime. That came after two teams played a pair of overtime periods without scoring a point. Seriously.
“I know people are saying, ‘What’s wrong with players,’ but I tell you what, that was taking care of the basketball,” said Kelly, BC’s head coach.
The first overtime saw exactly one possession from each team.
“These guys wanted to win that game so bad, and that’s what happened in those possessions,” Kelly said. “Everyone was valuing those possessions so much that they didn’t want to turn it over, didn’t want to force something. That’s a hard thing to do. People will not give teams credit for being able to run that much clock. That’s as hard as it is to score sometimes.”
The Maroons got three 3-point attempts off and maintained possession thanks to two Marcus Ferriter offensive rebounds and one dead-ball rebound.
Caleb Gillis tipped the ball to Trae Williams with just over a minute left in the overtime to give Dillon its first touch of the frame.
The Beavers, though, couldn’t capitalize on their last-second opportunity.
Tippett, who played every second of the 44-minute game, got off buzzer-beating attempts at the end of regulation and in the second-overtime.
“I was tired, but coming down you don’t really recognize it,” Tippett said. “It kind of just goes away.”
Watching the game was exhausting enough. The first half saw each team make a crazy run. The second half would make you pull your hair out.
After the Maroons took a 2-0 lead on a pair of Guldseth free throws, the Beavers scored 16 straight points and led the 16-2 after the first quarter.
Dillon did that despite seeing their best player, senior Ben Folsom, sit out the first 4 minutes, 56 seconds. Folsom, a future Montana State football player, broke his right hand — his shooting hand — in practice on Monday.
Gillis scored in the paint before the Beavers forced turnovers and Troy Scott sparked the squad with a 2-point bucket and a 3-pointer.
Carson King and Folsom hit free throws before King scored in the paint and Wyatt Holland sank a 3-pointer.
In the second quarter, the teams switched roles.
The Maroons outscored Dillon 18-2 — on six 3-pointers — to take a 20-18 lead into halftime.
Guldseth and Tippett each hit two bombs in that stretch. Ferriter and Danny Peoples hit one.
From then on, every possession, as Kelly once said, was like surgery.
Dillon led 24-20 before the Maroons tied it on a Dalton Sessions bucket and a Tippett drive.
The Beavers jumped up 27-24 on a King free throw and a Scott bucket. Peoples cut the lead to 27-26 with 26 seconds left in the third.
Boyd Jenne scored on a break to make it 29-26 Dillon just before Scott went down with what looked like a serious leg injury. He was back on the bench during overtime with his ankle bandaged.
After a Nate Bolstad put back, Dillon made it a 31-28 advantage on a Gillis turn-around jumper from the baseline with 6:51 left.
Dillon didn’t score again until midway through the third overtime.
“It was just two teams that pride themselves on the defensive end,” Guldseth said. “I think it was just hard work and just getting the job done.”
Tippett hit a 3-pinter with 1 minute 37 seconds left to tie the game at 31, where it stayed until Tippett hit both ends of a one-and-one with 3:27 left in the third overtime.
King tied it with 2:07 on the clock, and Williams drove for a 35-33 lead — seemingly a commanding lead given the circumstances — with 1:40 left.
Guldseth hit two free throws — with the second one taking a membership bounce before falling through — to tie the game at 35 with 1:36 left.
The Beavers set up for the final shot. Guldseth, though, had other plans.
“I was cramping. My hamstrings and my calves are cramping,” Guldseth said. “It came down to just making a play at the end of the game.”
Guldseth and Tippett each scored 13 points to lead the Maroons (14-6). Peoples scored five, while Ferriter ended with three and Bolstad and Sessions scored two. Connor McGree also contributed for the Maroons, who only used two subs all game.
Scott scored 13 to lead the Beavers (13-5). King scored seven while Jenne and Gillis each scored four.
The Beavers have to get up and play an 11 a.m. loser-out game against Hamilton on Saturday. Then they have to win the third place game and hope BC beats Stevensville so they can have a challenge game to get to state.
Only two teams move on from the Divisional tournament.
To Butte Central, 11 a.m. sounds crazy after the battle the two rivals just endured. Actually, the 8 p.m. championship game seems kind of unreasonable to the Maroons.
“We have to turn back the clock and get ready for Stevensville,” Tippett said. “Our legs are going to be tired, but we’re riding on momentum right now. Let’s just keep it going.”
Guldseth, who was part of BC’s heartbreaking semifinal loss to Stevensville at the Divisional tournament in Dillon last year, said he feels for the Beavers.
“They’re a great team, and they’re nice,” Guldseth said. “You don’t hear any trash talking out of them. It sucks that one of those teams had to lose.”
Kelly also praised coach Terry Thomas’ Beavers.
“This isn’t just a game, it’s a chance to show who you are. This showed what kind of character these kids have,” Kelly said. “For them to do what they did without Troy Scott in overtime and with Folsom’s broken hand, that showed a ton of character for them, too.”
Depending on how the earlier action shakes out, the Maroons could have a spot in State secured before the title tilt tops off.
No matter what, they’ll always have a spot in Butte Central history. The only other triple overtime game played by Butte Central’s boys was an 81-76 win over Livingston in 1998.
Butte historian and BC radio man Pat Kearney had to look that up. Nobody will ever have to look up the outcome of Friday night’s epic contest.
“I’ve been a part of some big ones here, but I don’t really think I can compare a game quite to the way this one went. That was phenomenal,” Kelly said. ” No one in this gym will ever forget this one.”2 comments