BUTTE — Butte Central and Hamilton went back and forth throughout the entirety of Thursday night’s Southwestern A conference showdown, but the Maroons held off Hamilton down the stretch to win, 57-50.
Neither team found separation through the first three quarters, as they entered the final period tied at 36-all. The lead changed hands six times before Butte Central grabbed the lead for good on a pair of free throws by senior Cade Holter. Holter then pushed the lead to six with 1:07 to play on a spinning drive into the lane that resulted in a three-point play.
“At the end of the game, those buckets that made it two possessions were huge. And yes, that was another big one, like (Sestrich’s) shot was before,” Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly said. “I think what (Holter) is right now, he creates a lot of enthusiasm. A lot of guys get excited when he’s making plays like that.”
Hamilton sniper Tanner Goligoski buried a long range 3-pointer to cut the Butte Central lead back to three with under a minute to play, but Braden Harrington and Dylan Sestrich sunk five of six free throws down the stretch to give the Maroons the win.
The Maroons jumped out on Hamilton early, leading 12-6 midway through the first quarter. But that would be the largest lead of the night for either side until the final free throws of the game. The Hamilton offense finally got clicking in the second quarter, though. Trey Searle hit a trio of triples and the Broncs carried a four-point lead into halftime.
But the second half was all about Holter. He converted a three-point play for the half’s first basket and scored eight points in the third quarter to tie things up headed to the fourth. Holter added seven more in the fourth, including his basket with just over a minute to play to push the Butte Central lead back to six.
“He’s crafty. He’s a pretty unique player. He does have great footwork. I think he’s kind of relentless. He finds ways to find gaps, ducks under guys, he’s creative getting into the lane,” Kelly said.
Butte Central held Hamilton to a season-low 50 points, with 65 representing the low total before Thursday’s contest. Goligoski, the Broncs’ leading scorer, was held to just eight points.
“There’s no question, that’s a really good basketball team. A very good, talented team,” Kelly said. “So much of that is pace of the game, too. They get the pace going, they get run-outs. It’s a balancing act. We’re trying to get offensive boards, but at the same time trying to get back on defense. It’s a challenge.”
Harrington had a game-high 22 points for Butte Central, 17 of which came in the first half. Holter finished with 19 points, scoring 15 of those after the halftime break. Searle led Hamilton with 12, all coming from downtown, while Hunter Omlid had nine and Carson Rostad and Goligoski finished with eight.
Hamilton is in action next on Jan. 3 on the road at Frenchtown. Butte Central will resume play on Jan. 4 at home against Dillon.