406 MT Sports

BILLINGS — One day after shooting the ball 3 for 26 from 3-point land against Billings Skyview, the Billings Central Rams found their groove and defeated Billings West 67-66 in nonconference boys basketball at the Golden Dome Saturday. 

Sam Gray led the Rams with 19 points while Chrishon Dixon added 15 and Liam Clancy scored 12. 

Central trailed 38-29 with 4:42 left in the game, but a layup and 3-pointer from Clancy and two threes from Cade Herriford gave the Rams an 11-2 run to tie the game 40-40. 

"All-around great effort from our guys to hang around," Central coach Jim Stergar said. "It was one of those times where we shot the ball the way we're supposed to late in the second half. I'm just proud of our guys for hanging around mentally in the game to give themselves a chance to come back."

However, West continued to stay on top thanks to impressive guard play from Jesse Owens and Cade Tyson. Owens knocked down a pair of shots in the beginning of the fourth and the Golden Bears led by as much as eight with around five minutes left in the game. 

However, with West leading 56-51, Gray was fouled on a shot and a technical foul was called on West's Josh Erbacher so Gray went to the line shooting four free throws. He made them all, and Clancy gave Central the lead with 2:28 left in the game with a 3-pointer and Gray quickly followed up with a three of his own to make it 61-56. 

"The past few games I've been really struggling to get the ball in the hoop and just overall offensively," Gray said. "I felt like today was a big game for that and for me to turn it on and do that. It's pretty crazy (to shoot four free throws in a row) but I've been working so much over summer and AAU got me ready for that and I felt really confident."

"Sam is a perfect example of when you put time in the offseason. He had over 20,000 shots made over the offseason this past year, and free throws are a big part of the workout they do," Stergar said. 

The teams trades free throws from there on out, with West getting as close as one after a Tyson layup with 14 seconds left. However, Joe Byorth made a free throw followed up by Dixon forcing a turnover on the ensuing West possession. Gray made two more free throws with six seconds left to make it 67-63.

"Very happy with the energy and effort," West coach Kelly Darragh said. "We keep playing like that and we'll be OK."

Tyson finished with 21 points while Owens added 16 for West. 

"We're just a really confident group and no matter the score we're always looking to attack and score especially when we're down," Gray said. "After last night when we shot so poorly and now we're getting back in our groove and I guess our shooting confidence is going back up."

Email Kyle Hansen at kyle.hansen@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsHansen