By Derek Hendrickson
BOZEMAN — The Billings Central Rams advanced to the consolation final of the Class A State basketball tournament by defeating the Butte Central Maroons 54-42 at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse Saturday morning. Stats
The loss ended the Maroons’ season only about 15 hours after their heartbreaking loss to another Eastern Conference team in the semifinals last night.
This game was similar in a lot of ways as Butte Central had a hard time finding any consistency on offense and fell behind double digits before staging a fourth-quarter rally that was too little, too late.
Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly talked about having a little bit of déjà vu in regards to this game compared to last night.
“I think we had some matchup issues with them,” Kelly said. “They have a lot of athletic kids and were able to get to the rim on us. Our energy level on the defensive end wasn’t as high as it needed it to. In fact, our game today was really similar to last night. I again thought we were gutsy at times on offense but not real cohesive again. We just didn’t find a lot of rhythm these last two games offensively, but they’re an athletic team and I thought they defended hard.”
The Maroons got off to a decent start, bolstered by the strong post play of Marcus Ferriter, who scored 10 of Butte Central’s 12 points in the first quarter. Dillon Meyer scored on a short jump shot to end the scoring of the opening frame with the Maroons holding a 12-10 lead.
Danny Peoples opened the second with an and-one lay-up to give the Maroons their largest lead of the game at 15-10. Meyer ripped off four straight points before Cal Hollow drained a three and that 18-14 Butte Central advantage was the end of much going right for the Maroons.
Billings Central scored 20 of the next 21 points to finish the first half and well into the third quarter. Kyle Harrington finally scored to cut into what had grown to a 15 point lead.
Butte Central would use that Harrington score to end their slumber and finish on a strong 11-4 run to get the led back down to a manageable 38-30 heading into the fourth. Hollow stepped outside of his usual playmaker role to aggressively attack the Rams’ defense and score the Maroons’ last 6 points of the third, including a last second floater.
The Rams grind it out style allowed them to go into keep away mode of much of the first few minutes of the final frame. Butte Central tried to press and utilize a trapping 1-3-1 zone but could never get the Rams to turn the ball over enough to start a rally.
The only strategy that worked, albeit very briefly, was to foul earlier than usual. The Rams missed the first two of their 1 and the bonus attempts to give Butte Central extra possessions and a Peoples three capped a 7-0 run that brought the Maroons within 46-41 and under two minutes to go.
After misfiring on their first two free throws the Rams made good on their next eight and Central was not able to hit another field goal to keep it close.
The loss ends the era of four outstanding seniors, all of whom have contributed to the program for several seasons. Ferriter ended his stellar career with a team high 17 points, five rebounds and two steals. Peoples added 11 in last game that was limited due to him picking up his 4th foul early in the 3rd quarter. The Rams most impressive stat was possibly their defense on seniors Dalton Sessions and Chad Peterson, who only had one point between them. Peterson finally was able to score the Maroons’ final point and the two of them combined for only 4 attempts from the field.
Kelly specifically wanted to talked about his four seniors, saying “I just wanted to say how much I appreciate how much the seniors have put into the program, especially over the past four years. Down the stretch of this season we had some ups and downs, these guys persevered and playing on Saturday at state, playing in the semis again, I think that’s a pretty good achievement from where we were to where we ended up and I’m proud of these guys.”
Hollow matched Peoples with 11 points as three Maroons were able to crack double digit scoring. Harrington’s run ending post move was good for his 2 points and Peterson hit a late free throw for one. Tanner Kump, Kyle Harper, Nate McGree and Sam Johnston all saw time for the Maroons and will need to step up next year to get the Maroons back to playing on the final Saturday of the season.
Meyer led the Rams with 16 points on 8 of 11 shooting. Billings Central shot 50 percent for the game and held the Maroons to only 40 percent and 15 percent from behind the arc. Jacob Hadley added 13 for Billings Central and Colin Holetz was good for 11.
Billings Central will play for the consolation championship and the third place trophy tonight at 6:30 against Columbia Falls, who won a close one against Havre, 59-58. The Blue Ponies were eliminated after losing two games in 15 hours by a total of three points, which shows just how close the top of the Class A field is this year.