BUTTE — With the clock a hair under five minutes and Butte Central clinging to a one-point lead against Hamilton, the game’s momentum was up in the air.
It had been that way for most of the hotly contested Southwest A matchup. The second one team would hit a big shot or get a critical steal, the other squad would respond.
Then, on a Butte Central possession, Dylan Sestrich found himself on the receiving end of a pass off a dribble drive. He buried the triple, which gave the Maroons a four-point lead and all the momentum.
Several minutes later Central walked off the court with a 57-50 win and a sterling 6-0 record.
“It was huge,” Sestrich said of his shot. “We were kind of on a cold streak, they were rotating, playing pretty hard. We just had to play hard and finish.”
The Maroons attempted 18 3-point shots in the first half, making just three of them. Many of them came early in the possession and at halftime Central head coach Brodie Kelly told his team to stop settling for those shots.
They did and the four-point halftime deficit turned into a lead by the early goings of the fourth quarter.
“I thought we were getting way too methodical,” Kelly said. “That wasn’t really us, we weren’t as fluid in the first half and we were shooting a tremendous amount of 3s.
“That, again, wasn’t us and the second half we did a much better job of getting into the lane.”
Senior forward Cade Holter was responsible for much of the action in the paint and scored 15 of his 19 total points over the final two quarters. He had multiple old-fashion three-point play opportunities and hit 5-of-6 free throws in the game.
Holter also is a tremendous rebounder and pulled down some important boards for the Maroons to help limit Hamilton’s explosive offense. The Broncs came into the Maroon Activities Center averaging over 75 points per contest and were held well below their season average.
“They’re a great defensive team and Coach (Brodie) Kelly does a terrific job with their man-to-man defense,” Broncs’ head coach Travis Blome said. “It’s suffocating.”
Star Hamilton guard Tanner Goligoski scored just eight points, while 6-foot-2 senior Hunter Omlid had just nine. They came into the contest averaging a combined 40 points.
Part of the problem for the Broncs was height. Four of the five Maroons starters are over six feet fall, with 6-foot-4 junior Aaron Richards coming off the bench.
With Hamilton not able to get much going on the outside, it became a bit of a struggle for them to score.
“They did a great job of executing when they needed to and made plays at the end,” Blome said. “Credit to them, it’s just one of those games in the Southwest A where you have to come ready to play.”
Trailing by three with the ball and 2:35 left to play, the Broncs had two turnovers, missed a shot, and fouled Holter in a span of about a minute.
Holter converted the shot plus the free throw to balloon the Maroons' lead to six and Hamilton wouldn’t get closer than three points the rest of the way.
Central’s Braden Harrington finished with a game-high 22 points while the Broncs were led by 12 from Troy Searle. Sestrich ended the game with 11.
The loss puts Hamilton at 4-2 on the year and 1-1 in Southwest A play. The Maroons are 6-0 (3-0 SW A) and are alone at the top of the conference until at least Jan. 4, when they’ll play Dillon in Butte.
“You don’t want to overestimate how much this means early in the season,” Kelly said. “I thought it was a really good basketball game between two pretty good teams … we’re really excited with how we’re playing right now, but everyone’s going to be improving over the next two months.”