MISSOULA — Holding off a late Missoula Big Sky rally, Helena Capital earned a crucial second win of the boys basketball season on Tuesday night in Missoula as the Bruins topped the Eagles 55-47.
The win improved Capital to 2-1 while Big Sky fell to 1-2 in a battle of two teams aiming to get out of a log-jam in the Western AA early.
Brayden Koch led Capital with 21 points while Malachi Syvrud added 10 and Nick Michelotti tallied eight points for the Bruins.
"This was a crucial trip for us, without a question and without much time to prepare," Capital coach Guy Almquist said. "Just to roll down here and it was an odd scenario, you're not used to getting on a bus trip and getting here when it's dark in high school. It was just a weird scenario like everything is this year."
Tre Reed, Louis Sanders and Kade Olson each scored 10 apiece for the Eagles.
Sanders buried three 3-pointers in the first half, the third giving Big Sky a 18-17 lead halfway through the second quarter. However, the Bruins responded with a 12-2 run that was spurred by all of Michelotti's points, including a pair of 3s, as Capital took a 29-20 advantage into half.
"They've been playing some good basketball, they've a very athletic basketball team and for us to get another win on the road will pay dividends down the road, especially when you don't know what tomorrow brings," Almquist said of Big Sky. "We don't know what tomorrow brings so if you're able to put one in the left-hand column today, that's a good deal."
The Bruins poured it on in the third quarter. Koch scored nine of his points in that frame, including a steal and fast-break two-handed slam over a Big Sky defender that gave Capital its largest lead at 40-25 with 3:48 left in the third quarter.
Big Sky continued to battle back, getting within five points with 1:20 left, but each time the Eagles would find momentum, Capital would get a timely turnover and respond with a basket to put the game away.
"I got to give it to the kids and we talked about it how maybe teams of the past would roll over and die and we'd end up getting beat by 30," Big Sky coach Ryan Hansen said. "But that's one thing I appreciate about these guys, is there's no quit in them, they keep fighting back and they'll find a way to get back into the game. But a team like Capital that takes every little mistake that you make, expands that into three or four mistakes, and then they capitalize on every mistake that you make, it's just tough to get all the way back into it I think."
The Bruins host Missoula Sentinel (3-0) on Saturday while Big Sky travels to take on Helena High (0-3) on Thursday.