BILLINGS — The game was over but Kendall Denham was not finished.
After returning to the gym, the senior made his way up the stands for a hug, then sprinted across the court for more congratulations.
And as weaved his way back toward the locker room, Denham was slowed by more fans and acquaintances offering kind words.
He certainly earned them.
Looking like the all-state quarterback he was at Malta, the Montana State Billings point guard directed the Yellowjackets to an 82-75 win over Rocky Mountain College Wednesday night at the Fortin Center in men’s basketball.
It was an exhibition game for both teams and MSUB’s first win at the Fortin Center since 2012. The teams will meet again on Dec. 9 at the Yellowjackets’ Alterowitz Gymnasium.
“Not at all,” Denham said if it was just another exhibition game. “It’s a cross-town rivalry. It’s always been that way for the five years I’ve been here.
“The teams know each other. Chad (Kananen, Rocky senior guard) and I play basketball together. It’s a good win.”
Denham finished with 18 points and six assists, both team highs.
He also threaded a pretty bounce pass to teammate Zack Collins for an easy basket and lobbed another to Zharon Richmond for a crucial reverse layin late in the game.
“My teammates get to their spots and I try to find them,” said Denham, who ranks 14th all-time at MSUB for career assists. “Zack is one of the most athletic players we have on the team. I just tried to get him the ball and let him do the rest.
“What we really do well is share the ball. This one of the most unselfish teams I’ve been around.”
Denham scored four of MSUB’s final six points in the last minute of the game.
“Kendall has always had great leadership qualities,” said Yellowjacket head coach Jamie Stevens. “Now his production has matched his leadership.”
Rollins added 15 points for MSUB, while freshman David Simental came off the bench to add 14. All 11 Yellowjackets had at least one basket.
MSUB outscored the Battlin’ Bears 19-6 to close the first half, including a 13-0 run, to lead 44-35 at halftime.
Rocky got within 54-53 early in the second half, but Denham answered with a put-back and Richmond followed with a 3-point play. The Skyview graduate finished with nine points and seven rebounds in his first collegiate game.
“We showed some resiliency. We were able to withstand some of their runs,” Stevens said.
Kananen led Rocky with 18 points, while Satchel McDonald had 11 and Latrelle Franklin 10.
“We just couldn’t get over the hump,” said Battlin’ Bears head coach Bill Dreikosen. “We would draw close and they would make a play, hit a three. We didn’t take care of the ball very well (17 turnovers) and credit goes to them, they pressure you hard the whole game.”
NOTES: Rocky (2-0) travels to Pablo for a rematch with Salish Kootenai on Saturday. ... The Yellowjackets officially begin the season in Hayward, California, at the West Region Crossover Tournament. MSUB will play CSU-East Bay on Nov. 10 and Sonoma State on Nov. 11.