LAUREL — Colter Bales only had seven points on Thursday night, but he had the three that decided the game.
Bales drove to the basket and converted an and-one with 12.3 seconds to play to break a 39-all tie and propel the Locomotives to a 42-40 boys basketball win over Billings Central.
Laurel clinched the Southeastern A regular-season title with the victory.
Central opened the game with an 8-2 lead, but Laurel took advantage of double teams thrown its way by distributing the ball nicely in the second quarter. A 16-4 run by the Locomotives to end the half gave them an 18-12 lead at the break.
But the Rams got back in the game in a hurry. A Junior Brackenridge baseline drive and finish tied the game up at 21. The teams traded 6-0 spurts but Laurel scored the final five points of the third quarter, capped by a Dalton Boehler 3-pointer to give the Locomotives a 32-27 lead with eight minutes to play.
Laurel led 39-35 with less than three minutes to play when Nate Sasich hit a corner 3-pointer to make it a one-point game. A Brackenridge free throw tied it at 39 before Bales' heroics gave Laurel a three-point lead.
Central had its chances, though. Malachi Stewart was fouled on a 3-point attempt with 6.7 seconds to play. He made only his second free throw, but the Rams got the ball back out of bounds with 3.5 seconds left. Stewart's desperation heave bounced off the backboard and the buzzer sounded with the ball loose.
Laurel will finish its regular season on Saturday against Glendive. Both the Locomotives and Rams will be playing at the Eastern A divisional tournament next weekend.