Playing on relatively tired legs, the Billings Wildcats put an end to a rare losing streak with a 65-53 Southwest Central League victory at Spokane on Tuesday night.
Billings, the state’s defending Class 2 champions, came into the night having gone 0-3 at the Nixa Invitational last weekend. Granted, those losses came to two Class 3 schools (Hogan Prep, Eugene), and a Class 4 (Harrisonville), but the winless stretch was a new experience for Billings’ senior class.
“They’ve never lost three in a row in their life,” said Billings coach Kendall Tilley. “But they also haven’t played in too many tournaments (as good) as that.”
Early on, Billings seemed to be stuck in a haze from last weekend. Spokane scored nine of the game’s first 11 points and led 23-14 after the first quarter behind the hot 3-point shooting of freshmen Storm Price and Christian Brown.
Billings switched from its zone defense to man, and Spokane started to cool down. The Owls tallied just four points in the second quarter.
“We guarded a lot better,” Tilley said. “They still made some looks and knocked some shots down, but I thought we did a much better job out there when we went man-to man and made them work a little bit. We closed out on shooters a little bit better.”
Jimmy Cooper’s 3-pointer got Spokane within 45-40 late in the third quarter, but Brady Chastain answered with a trey to give Billings an eight-point lead heading into the fourth.
Chastain, who finished with a game-high 22 points, got a putback to give Billings a 57-47 lead with 4:20 remaining in the game. The Wildcats led by double digits the rest of the way.
Eric Bowman scored 16 for Spokane, which was playing again without injured senior center Hunter Bishop. Austin Essick added 21 points for Billings.
It’s not often weather affects a basketball game, but Tuesday night’s rain created a treacherous court inside the Spokane High School gym.
A leaky roof led to constant wiping of two spots near halfcourt throughout the game. Humidity made the court slippery for players.
“We just thought it was a couple of spots (that were wet) out there, but I think it was more than that,” Tilley said. “Plus, the heat was in here and it was humid. The court wasn’t drying like it normally would.”
Billings (16-4) plays Friday night at Blue Eye. Spokane (10-11) hosts Clever.
Billings 65, Spokane 53
Billings 14 14 20 17 --- 65
Spokane 23 4 13 13 --- 53
Billings – Brady Chastain 22, Austin Essick 21, Chad Yeokum 15, Dawson Meyer 5, Lane Truman 2
Spokane – Eric Bowman 16, Christian Brown 9, Storm Price 9, Zach Turner 8, Brandon Cloud 5, Jimmy Cooper 4, Brandon McCoy 2
Billings B 45, Spokane B 38