If you were surprised the Butte Central and Stevensville played an overtime game, then you just weren’t paying attention.
The Yellowjackets got the best of the Maroons Friday night as Stevi knocked off the Maroons 52-48 in a never-rattling semifinal of the Southwestern A boys’ basketball tournament at the Maroon Activities Center. STATS
The defending Class A state champions advance to play Dillon in Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. championship game. The Maroons play Hamilton in a 9:30 a.m. loser-out game at the MAC.
“The last two times we played these guys it’s the same thing,” Butte Central coach Brodie Kelly said. “It was a one-possession game with under a minute to go. We could play these guys 100 times and I think everyone would. The difference this time was we shot terrible.”
The Maroons were cold as could be to open the game. BC hit on just 5 of 22 shots in the first half of a game they never led for a second. They tied the game five times.
“The mental toughness it takes to do that, it’s hard to express,” Kelly said of playing in a game in when you constantly have your back to the wall. “That showed a lot of character for our team to do that.
“When you get to this level against that caliber team, you’ve got to get some bounces,” Kelly added. “We just didn’t get the bounce.”
The game started disastrously for the Maroons (15-4). Stevi led 9-2 after the first quarter, and the Yellowjackets (13-7) built a 12-point lead twice in the second quarter. The last time came after Christopher Bergman sank a 3-pointer after a long possession with 2 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half.
Senior Nate Bolstad hit an off balance jumper and classmate Kale Guldseth followed with a jumper from the same spot as BC started to snap out of the funk. The Maroons trailed 19-11 at the break after Guldseth drove for a hoop in the final seconds.
Stevensville led 28-25 after three quarters, constantly answering BC runs until Guldseth hit a pull-up 3-pointer with 1:39 left in the game to tie the score at 41. The big shot marked the game’s first tie since 2-all.
Jared Schultz, who scored nine of his 16 points after regulation, was the go-to guy for Stevi to end the game in the fourth quarter.
As Schultz stalled to set up a last-second shot, Guldseth, who along with three first-half fouls kept the guard mostly in check, went down with a cramp. The senior guard, though, mustered enough strength to cut in front of Schultz and force a bad shot.
Schultz gave the Yellowjackets the lead early in both overtimes, and the Yellowjackets held the Maroons off from the foul line.
Guldseth returned to the game for the overtimes, but he didn’t guard Schultz. He did drive for a bucket to tie the game at 45 with 12 seconds left in overtime to send the game to anther 4-minute period.
“We ended up taking him off Schultz, and that hurt us a little bit,” Kelly said, pointing to Schultz’s effectiveness in holding the ball for long periods of time. “We just couldn’t make them get the count going, and they (the officials) were making us get so close to him. It was frustrating. When they’re forcing us to get so close to them to get the count going, our only option is to bump them or it will go on forever.
“In the overtimes, it felt like they shot free throws, we had to score two, they shot free throws, we had to score two.”
Kelly also pointed to some big Schultz shots down the stretch.
“Jared Schultz, he is so tough,” Kelly said. “The shots he hits are just phenomenal, especially that late in the game.”
Future Montana Tech football player Zach Gavlack scored a game-high 19 points before fouling out with 2:53 left in regulation.
Chris Lords scored six, while Chance Colman tossed in five for the Yellowjackets.
Bolstad scored 11 of his team-leading 13 points in the second half. Guldseth ended with 11, while Marcus Ferriter and Dalton Sessions each scored nine and Chad Peterson and Cal Hollow netted three apiece.
Connor McGree, Danny Peoples and Dylan Goodell also contributed for the Maroons, who will need two wins on Saturday and a win in a challenge game to make it to next week’s Class A state tournament.
A win over Hamilton Saturday morning would send the Maroons to the 3:30 p.m. third-place game. If they win that game, the Maroons would need Stevi to knock off Dillon in order to set up a challenge game against the Beavers.
Kelly said he suspects his team is ready to make a run.
“It’s going to be a huge mental challenge for us,” the coach said. “With the character our guys showed tonight, I expect that they’ll be ready to respond and play their best tomorrow.”