THREE FORKS — Big Timber turned into the aggressor in the second half, and it allowed the Herders to pull away late in the fourth quarter for a 70-62 boys basketball win against Fairfield at the Imerys Classic.
“(Fairfield) is tough. They’re great athletes, quick. They never give up. They’re real physical. It’s a good team to play at this time of year,” Big Timber head coach Dan Smart said.
The two were knotted at 58-all with 3:43 to play. Following a miss, Kell Schwers corralled the rebound and finished the bucket in one motion, while also drawing a foul. The converted three-point play gave Big Timber its first lead of the quarter.
Turnovers and missed shots plagued Fairfield down the stretch, and Big Timber was able to ice the game from the free throw line, sinking 11 of 13 in the fourth quarter, including the final eight.
“Our plan was to take it to the hole, get them in foul trouble, get to the rack, shoot free throws to win,” Smart said.
Early on, both the Herders and Eagles put on a shooting clinic, trading 3-point baskets throughout the second quarter. Neither team could gain separation from the other in the first half. However, the tides began to turn slowly when Big Timber got Fairfield starters Ryder Meyer and Dawson Allen in foul trouble at the beginning of the third quarter.
With Fairfield digging into its inexperienced bench, Big Timber was able to maintain with the Eagles. But ultimately, free throws made the difference. Big Timber finished 21 of 32 at the line and 17 of 19 in the second half.
“We got pretty hot in the first and second quarter, but I said, ‘We’re going to cool down a little bit. The way we’re going to win is at the free throw line,’” Smart said.
While Keeley Bake was terrific in the first half for Fairfield, scoring 15 before the break, he was held to just four points in the second half.
“Hard defense,” Smart said of how the Herders slowed Bake down. “I told the kids to go after him, don’t be afraid of him. Negate his speed by going right in his face.”
Schwers had a game-high 20 points, while Ethan Bullock added 13 and Blake Finn and Casey Gunlikson each had 11 for Big Timber. Bake had a team-high 19 for Fairfield.
Imerys Classic Day 1 results
Gardiner 75, Anaconda 34
Twin Bridges 48, Jefferson 40
Three Forks 68, Huntley Project 50
Big Timber 70, Fairfield 62
Jefferson 58, Gardiner 35
Anaconda 44, Huntley Project 39
Big Timber 47, Fairfield 37
Three Forks 56, Twin Bridges 33