Oliver Carr, Bozeman’s prominent 6-foot-6 post, never played in a state tournament in his high school career. Of this he says, “It was really disappointing. But those high school years of basketball were some of my favorite times.”
Carr left the Wyoming All-Stars with a final, unshakeable image Saturday night at the Fortin Center: One of him cutting to the rim, taking an inbound pass and emphatically dunking the ball to seal a 93-85 victory for the Montana All-Stars.
It was the perfect exclamation point. Carr finished the game with 31 points and nine rebounds, and made the game’s biggest plays at its most crucial moments.
Carr shot 12 for 19 from the field, and closed the game by making his final eight shots. Combined for the weekend (which included a 105-103 win by Montana in Sheridan, Wyo., on Friday) Carr scored 54 points and proved to be the most effective player on the court.
“My goal was just to produce for the team,” said the Carroll College-bound Carr. “I posted up and got my butt into my defender.”
Makes sense. Carr said the plan was to “get the bigs the ball in the post, and I thought we executed that very well tonight.”
Billings Senior’s Kooper Kidgell scored Montana’s first eight points and went on to finish with 22. Dillon’s Troy Scott also had a big night, scoring 15 points, including a stretch in the second quarter when he scored 10 in a row.
The Montana All-Stars outscored Wyoming 33-14 in the second quarter to take a 14-point lead into halftime.
“We kind of called our guys out at halftime in the locker room,” said Wyoming coach Steve Smiley. “We didn’t hit shots early on. That second quarter was obviously the big problem.”
But Wyoming fought back in the fourth quarter, thanks in large part to a rare six-point possession. It started when Sheridan’s Reed Ritterbusch hit a 3-pointer at the 7:55 mark. A foul was called on Stevensville’s Jared Schultz away from the ball on the shot, and Rawlins’ Alex Collier made two bonus free throws.
Montana coach Steve Keller was then assessed a technical foul, which led to Gillette’s Cody Kelley making 1 of 2 from the line. Suddenly, Wyoming trailed only 71-69.
“We called timeout right after that and just talked about it,” Keller said. “We responded to a little adversity. That’s my bad for getting the technical. But we had a great bunch of guys, and I thought they played together pretty well.”
Carr came up big when it counted. With the score tied 78-78, Carr converted inside on back-to-back possessions to give Montana a four-point lead with under 3:00 to play. After Kelley, a two-time Wyoming Gatorade player of the year, sank a crossover 3 to keep pace, Montana got a couple big defensive stops.
And Carr dunked the ball on an inbounds play with 41 seconds left to put it away.
“That felt really good,” Carr said. “Good way to end the game, good way to end the all-star weekend.”
“He’s good,” Smiley said of Carr. “He’s going to Carroll next year? They’ve got a pretty good player. He’s the type of kid, if he played at one of the junior colleges, he’s a low-major Division I player. We fought back, but we just couldn’t get over that hump.”
Montana now owns a 51-27 all-time series lead over Wyoming, including sweeps in three consecutive years. The Treasure State stars have won 11 of the past 14 games dating back to 2008.