Great Falls CMR gave up frontcourt size to Bozeman, but what the Rustlers were able to accomplish with a slew of players attacking those Hawks bigs capped off a 2-0 run through the Eastern AA boys basketball tournament at Butte High.
Bozeman staged a run in the third quarter to draw close, but ultimately the Rustlers’ depth and tenacity got the best in a 63-53 championship win Saturday evening.
Both teams will advance to play in the Class AA state tournament next weekend.
“I’ve never played in a state tournament before,” CMR’s Sam Vining said. “I’m going out the right way.”
The Rustlers came out attacking the paint – and Bozeman’s Mack Anderson, a University of Montana commit – with constant drives right to the rim.
That offense yielded seven players recording points while getting the Bozeman center in foul trouble early.
“We hit their bigs and we got them into foul trouble,” CMR’s Garrison Rothwell said. “By attacking them, when they started to sag back, it was easier to find the kicks.”
Bozeman went on a 13-6 run to close the first half to trail 44-41 going into the third.
Then the floor opened up for CMR. Of their eight 3-pointers, five came in the second half.
Rothwell was a force throughout for the Rustlers, scoring 18 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Vining scored 15 points in the title game, including three 3s.
Anderson scored 18 points and grabbed eight boards, but his five fouls kept him from establishing a rhythm throughout.
CMR beat Billings Senior in the semifinals after a first round bye. Bozeman got to the title game with wins over Billings Skyview and Great Falls High.