Billings (19-4, 6-0) played the role of spoiler in Clever’s final home regular season game by upending the Blue Jays’ perfect conference record with a victory. The visiting Wildcats defeated Clever (18-5, 5-1) 70-57 behind the play of sharp-shooting senior forward Brady Chastain.
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Chastain and Billings got the game started at an up-tempo pace. Chastain led the offensive charge in the first quarter, scoring 12 of the team’s 18 points. He was working inside and out, knocking down three three-pointers in the period. The Wildcats were at their best offensively when they attacked the paint and either took the shot in the lane or found Chastain roaming along the three-point line for an open shot.
“It was important to come out and hit some shots early,” said Billings head coach Kendall Tilley.
The Wildcats opened the second period on a 9-2 run, extending their lead to 10 points. After gaining that big lead however, Billings got complacent with its shot selection and allowed Clever to claw its way back into the game. Unlike Billings, the Blue Jays were attacking the rim and getting easy baskets in the lane. Following Billings’ run, Clever went on an 11-2 run of its own to cut the deficit to only one point. A Fisher jump shot fell just short as the buzzer sounded and the Wildcats went into the half with a 29-28 lead. Instead of continuing to play its game, Billings went for the knockout punch and missed bad.
“I think we were turning the ball over and forcing the ball down court and had some silly passes, but we were fortunate to have that lead at halftime,” said Tilley.
Clever gained its first lead of the game, 30-29, seconds into the third quarter after a Travis Pennewell free throw. After Pennewell’s trip to the free throw line, the two teams exchanged leads multiple times. Billings made a 6-0 push at the end of the third to take a 47-41 lead into the final period. Senior Austin Essick was the key to the Wildcats’ third quarter success, as he scored 11 points in the period and 17 total in the game.
“We started taking it to the basket and getting offensive rebounds which were important,” said Tilley. “Also, we got in the bonus early and that is important and if we can get to the free throw line we are usually a pretty good team.”
In the fourth quarter, it was the combination of Chastain and junior guard Dawson Meyer scoring to clinch the game for Billings. The two combined for 18 of the team’s 23 fourth quarter points. Chastain scored 10 points in the period, and finished with a game high 27 points. Meyer added eight points in the quarter, all of which came from the free throw line, to bring his game total to 17 points.
“We got four good guys so we will always have a couple that can really give us some points and if we can just feed those guys and feed off of them things go well for us,” said Tilley.
Clever began unraveling in the fourth quarter, as they failed to execute offensively and had no answer defensively to the attacking Billings’ offense. Fisher, who kept his team in the game in the fist-half, was held to only two points in the second-half. Guards Ryan Farmer and Travis Pennewell were the lone offensive factors for the Blue Jays in the second-half, combining for 17 points in the final two quarters.
Billings will next host Galena in the Wildcats final game of the regular season. Clever will finish the season at Sparta before entering the district tournament.
Billings scoring: Brady Chastain 27, Austin Essick 17, Dawson Meyer 17, Chad Yeokum 9
Clever scoring: Dalton Fisher 13, Jared Albright 11, Ryan Farmer 11, Matt Hamilton 8, Colton Pemberton 2, Alex Petrochilos 2