Too much Matt Wyman and too many turnovers added up to a tough loss for Billings Senior on Monday night.
Wyman led Great Falls High with 19 points and Senior committed five costly turnovers in overtime as the Bison escaped the Senior gym with a 68-65 win in Eastern AA boys basketball.
With the win, Great Falls set itself up for a showdown this afternoon in the regular season finale at Billings Skyview. Both teams are now 6-5 in the Eastern AA, and the winner will likely clinch home court in a state tournament playoff game later this week.
“Great win for us,” said Great Falls coach Bob Howard. “Our kids did a great job of hanging in there. Senior played very well — they always do at home — and we kept our cool and hung in there.
“There are about 18 million different playoff scenarios right now, but we know going into (today’s) game that if we win, we’ll more than likely be at home for the playoffs.”
The Bison (11-8) outscored Senior 22-8 in the second quarter to grab a 36-26 halftime lead. From there, though, it was a dogfight.
The Broncs opened the second half with an 8-0 run and outscored Great Falls 17-5 in the third quarter to grab a 43-41 lead.
The wild fourth quarter featured five ties and six lead changes. Wyman hit two free throws with 40 seconds left and then made one of two with 12 seconds left to put Great Falls up 55-53.
After a scramble for the rebound on Wyman’s missed second shot, Senior called timeout with eight seconds remaining. Coming out of the timeout, Great Falls inexplicably fouled Senior star Kooper Kidgell before the inbound pass, and Kidgell hit both free throws to tie the score at 55.
The Bison ran the ball downcourt, and Lukas Vining had a great look at a jumper in the paint at the buzzer, but it rimmed out.
From there, though, it went south quickly for the Broncs. Senior committed turnovers on its first three possessions of overtime, helping the Bison open a 62-55 lead.
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Senior clawed back on a 3-pointer and a 2-pointer by Jorey Egeland, and Kidgell hit two free throws with 35 seconds left to cut the deficit to 66-62.
The Broncs then forced a turnover, and Kidgell buried a deep 3-pointer after pump-faking a Bison defender out of the way, making it 66-65 with 28 seconds left. But Senior could get no closer — com-mitting turnovers on its next two trips — and Jake Wetzel provided the final margin with two free throws.
“We hit some big shots and some big free throws, and we got some steals when we really needed them … especially in overtime,” said Howard.
Freshman star Brendan Howard battled foul trouble most of the night and finished with just nine points, but Wyman, Bryce Clark (16 points) and Vining (14) carried the load.
“We did what we wanted to against Howard, but Wyman killed us,” said Senior coach Jim Wilsey. “He’s a heck of a player. We were trying to keep the ball out of his hands, but he kept getting it and hitting big shots and big free throws.”
Kidgell finished with 20 points and 11 rebounds for Senior, which lost despite outrebounding Great Falls 42-31.
“The 13 turnovers is what got us,” said Wilsey. “And obviously the five in overtime. You can’t win that way.
“Our kids really battled though, especially in that second half. Great Falls is a very good team, and we hung right with them.”
Egeland added 13 points, Nickos Vlahos 11 and Justin Dreessen nine and Quinn Abdallah eight for Senior.
Great Falls visits Skyview at 4 p.m. today, while Senior hosts CMR at 4 p.m. in its regular-season finale. Win or lose today, the Broncs (4-7, 9-10) are locked into the No. 6 playoff seed and will travel to the No. 3 seed in the playoffs.