It will go down in the annals as the most lopsided game in the history of the Billings Senior-Billings West boys basketball series.
But not for a lack of effort by either team.
Just hours after 14 of Senior’s varsity and JV players were dealt a two-game suspension for a hazing incident, No. 1-ranked West defeated an overmatched — but spirited — group of seven Broncs by a 72-25 score Thursday night at the West gym.
“I’m so proud of those kids and for their effort,” Senior coach Jim Wilsey said of his seven players, which featured two varsity reserves and five from the sophomore team. “West is so good ... if you don’t come with all your weapons against them, it’s tough. And obviously we didn’t have all of our guys tonight.
“The seven kids that took the court for us gave it everything they had. With only seven, it’s tough. But they played hard all the way to the end. The opportunity to play in front of this crowd against that team is something that will stay with these kids forever, and I couldn’t be prouder of them for the way they played."
The suspensions resulted from an incident Wednesday night at a team gathering held at a player’s house. School District 2 interim superintendent Jack Copps told The Gazette that one of the team members, a junior, was held down by other players and shocked with a dog’s shock collar.
West coach Doug Robison said he felt “as uncomfortable coaching this game as any game I’ve ever coached.” But when it was over, Robison also had nothing but good things to say about the Senior players.
“It’s truly an unfortunate situation ... I feel sorry for everyone involved, especially the victims,” said Robison. “As a coach, I had to tell our kids to play hard and compete and not take plays off.
“And the Senior High kids competed hard. For most of the first half, it truly was a competitive game. We certainly understood the situation and had no intention of embarrassing or shaming any of the kids or coaches in the Senior program. And the way those kids played, they have no reason to be embarrassed.”
The 47-point margin surpassed the previous most lopsided game in the Senior-West series — which dates back to 1961 — a 76-39 West win in 1989. But for one quarter, the Broncs hung tough in front of the near-capacity crowd.
After West grabbed a quick 7-0 lead, two baskets by junior Alex Klatt brought the Broncs to within 7-4.
After a pair of West baskets, Klatt scored again and then junior Skyler Scheetz brought a huge roar from the Senior faithful when he hit a 3-pointer from the left corner to make it 11-9 with 21 seconds left in the quarter.
From there, however, it unfolded as expected. Chris Little Sun, a 5-foot-9 sophomore, snuck in a put-back over West’s 6-8 Brady Gustafson to make it 13-11 early in the second quarter, but West reeled off the next 17 points and took a 34-13 lead into halftime.
The lead grew to 49-15 at the 4:08 mark of the third quarter when Robison sat his starters down for the night.
Scheetz led Senior with seven points, followed by Klatt with six and Little Sun with four.
Sophomores Levi Beck, Austin Egan, Ryan Good and Jorey Egeland added two points apiece.
Senior (8-7 overall, 5-4 in the Eastern AA) will be without the suspended players in tonight’s game at Hardin, but Wilsey said they will return next week.
“They’re going to sit out two games. As far as I know, that’s not going to change,” he said. “They’ll be back at practice Monday and we’ll regroup and get back after it.
“This will be a learning experience for them. They made a mistake and they’ll learn from it, but we certainly won’t throw in the towel on the season. This is a good team with good kids. We’ll get past this ... the goals we want to accomplish this season are still there for us.”
Danny Robison and Stewart Harris led West with 12 points each. Brandon McIver added nine and Gustafson, Nate Smith and Andrew Campbell scored eight apiece.
West (14-1, 7-1) gets a chance to avenge its only loss of the season tonight when the Golden Bears host Bozeman.
“The effort of the Senior kids tonight really helped us get ready for Bozeman,” said Robison. “We ran our normal offense and defense tonight, and Senior competed hard and made us work.
“Senior played zone (defense) almost the whole game, and we’re expecting Bozeman to do the same. It’s a big game for us and we need to come out ready to play.”