SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Wyoming’s rallying cry all weekend was to put a stop to Montana’s reign of dominance in the annual Midland Roundtable all-star boys basketball series between neighboring states.
Every time the Treasure State stars looked poised for a blowout win — in each of the weekend’s games — Wyoming answered. Yet Montana always had enough to prevail.
Montana again saw big leads evaporate but for the second straight night hung on to defeat Wyoming, this time by a 95-94 score at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome on Saturday.
It didn't come without some late-game theatrics.
Trailing by four in the final seconds, Gillette Campbell County’s Trase Olsen made a 3-pointer from the corner at the buzzer. Olsen fell to the hardwood and the entire Wyoming team hoped for a foul and an opportunity to force overtime at the free throw line.
Manhattan Christian’s Caleb Bellach was guarding Olsen. The Montana State basketball signee wasn’t worried.
“I knew we were up four and I knew they were going for a 3,” Bellach said afterward. “He kind of just fell over, stuck his feet out. I was straight up, I know I didn’t foul him.”
The referees agreed and the game ended in Montana’s favor — one night after it hung on for a 103-100 victory at Alterowitz Gym in Billings.
The win was Montana’s 16th in a row over Wyoming, and raised its all-time series lead to 60-27. Wyoming’s last win came in 2011.
“They’re a good basketball team," Bellach said. "They’ve got some good players going to some good programs. They’d lost 15 in a row in this series. They weren’t just going to roll over and die. Credit to them. They’re a good basketball team.
“It feels good. It feels good not to blow the streak, I guess. Now somebody else has to do it.”
Montana led 44-30 in the second quarter and 73-61 at the start of the fourth but found itself tied 75-75 with a little more than seven minutes remaining. The Treasure State team again got some separation on baskets by Billings West’s Jesse Owens, Billings Central’s Chrishon Dixon and Dillon’s Michael Haverfield, and a spinning shot by Bellach gave Montana a 90-84 lead with 2:51 left.
Wyoming crawled back in it, highlighted by a three-point play by Sheridan High’s Tristan Bower and an Olsen drive to pull within 94-91 with 14 seconds left. Owens made one of two foul shots with 10 seconds to go, which proved to be Montana’s saving grace and rendered Olsen's 3-pointer moot.
“The streak before this week was 14 games,” said Bower, who scored 18 second-half points to pace Wyoming. “We wanted to be the team to beat Montana, and we wanted to do everything it took to beat them. I felt like we did that for the most part. It wasn’t for a lack of effort.
“Montana played great. We just couldn’t close it out.”
Bellach finished with a game-high 22 points for Montana. Haverfield added 12 and Lewistown’s Jaden Graham had 11.
Olsen and Riverton’s Treyton Paxton each added 16 for Wyoming.
“We had them down a couple different times and we just didn’t put them away,” said Montana All-Stars coach Steve Keller, who has won all 16 games he’s coached in the series. “They fought back. They’ve got some good players.
“That’s probably the best (Wyoming) team that we’ve played. But our guys kept their composure and found a way.”
NOTES: Cheyenne East G Erik Oliver was named Mr. Basketball for the state of Wyoming prior the game.