Headed out

Boys’ basketball team falls on final day of divisionals, concludes season with loss

BILLINGS — Sometimes, the punch isn’t the worst part about a knock out blow; sometimes, it’s hitting the canvas. 

In two swift hits, the Sweet Grass County boys’ basketball team’s season came to an abrupt end during the Southern B Divisional Tournament last weekend at the MetraPark Rimrock Auto Arena in Billings. After dealing the first blow to St. Labre in a 71-42 rout on March 1, Lodge Grass dealt the first blow the following night in a 70-63 win against the Herders.

On March 3, Colstrip put the final touches on the Herders’ season in a 59-50 contest. And just like that, the lights went out. 

In the contest with the Indians — who lost to Three Forks in the divisional title game, but return to state for the second-straight year — the Herders struggled with their opponent’s full-court press and defensive rebounding. By no means was the year over when the Herders matched up just 16 hours later with the No. 2 Colts, who suffered their first loss of the year to Three Forks earlier that week.

“It was just a matter of them making their shots,” said junior Ethan Bullock. “We put a hand in their face, and it’s either half and half; either they make it or they don’t. Other teams that we play, we put a hand in their face and they’ll miss the shot. This team, they decided to make their shots.”

The Colts ended up shooting 59.1 percent from the floor in the second half and 46.5 percent throughout the game. The Herders shot 40.4 percent, but had a better finishing half than their first-half 38.1 percent.

SGHS took a first-half lead, just 21-19 after hitting a 10-3 run late in the second quarter. A four-point play by the Colts looked to give them the momentum heading into the final period, up 39-32, but Casey Gunlikson — who finished with 10 points — hit a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to pull within two possessions. 

“We played a good end of the second quarter and took the lead into the half,” said SGHS head coach Dan Smart. “There was just a stretch in the third quarter where we just let things get away from us. We didn’t rebound well, got some fouls, missed some buckets. Just some things that typically happen on a Saturday morning.”

For more on this story, subscribe to the Pioneer, pick up a copy of this week’s edition on newsstands, or subscribe to our e-edition from our homepage. 

PHOTO CAPTION: Hayden Mosness (right) heads to the Herders’ bench as Elijah Rogers (22) and Mylon Blacksmith (20) celebrate their trip back to state and to the Southern B Divisional final after a 70-63 victory against Big Timber on March 2. (STEPHEN KALB-KOENIGSFELD / Big Timber Pioneer)