Matt Fuhrman is the opposite of flamboyant. But the Billings Skyview point guard sure does make things happen in the clutch.
Fuhrman made two big plays in the waning moments Saturday night to help preserve the Falcons' 63-49 victory over Billings Central at the Nelles Activities Center.
With Skyview leading by six points with roughly three minutes remaining, Fuhrman stole the ball at mid-court and cruised to an uncontested layup to pad the lead. Then, after a defensive stop, Fuhrman was on the scoring end of a home-run inbound pass from Tommy Little for another easy basket that put the Falcons back up by double-digits.
"Matt makes things go. He's full speed ahead," said Skyview coach Toby Hill. "He makes a lot of big plays for us. Most of his highlights are of him doing something in the full-court, getting to the rim, making layups ... he's played a lot of basketball and he has a good feel for the game."
Skyview led by as many as 14 points in the third quarter, but Central guard Ryan Burke got hot from beyond the arc to help pull the Rams back into the game.
Burke hit four second-half 3-pointers, the last of which made the score 52-45 with 4:38 left. Central's Connor Cerkovnik scored inside on the Rams next possession to bring the Rams within six points.
But they got no closer. Fuhrman made sure of that.
"We needed to watch Ryan Burke, and we didn't at first," said Fuhrman, who finished with nine points. "He made a couple 3's and they got right back in the game. But that's basketball. It's a game of ups and downs."
Of his steal at mid-court, Fuhrman said he "just made a good play on the ball. I hadn't been getting much going in this game, so it felt good to finish strong."
The Falcons got a boost from sharpshooting sophomore Kooper Kidgell, who went 6 for 10 from the floor and finished with a game-high 18 points. Kidgell hit a pair of 3-pointers in the first half. Daine Muller also hit two 3's and added 12 points for the Falcons before fouling out.
The Rams were in foul trouble from the first quarter on. Big men Daniel Meyer and Dylan Hanser both picked up two quick fouls and were forced to sit for much of the first half. Meyer scored 10 points on 5 of 9 shooting, while Hanser finished with eight, including a huge dunk in the fourth quarter.
But their services were missed at important moments in the game.
"We had Dylan and Daniel out, and Jacob (Stanton) hadn't practiced all week. So you just kind of take your game plan and throw it out the window a little bit.
"But I was proud of our kids. They had chances to turn that into a blowout, but we battled back. We cut it to six and had the ball and had an opportunity."
Skyview improved to 9-3 heading into another cross-town matchup with Billings Senior Tuesday night. The Rams dipped to 6-6. They host Miles City on Thursday.
Central girls 55, Skyview 41
Tenika Capouch would eventually produce. She usually does. So the key for Central's girls was to contain Skyview's supporting cast.
Capouch had game-highs of 20 points and 11 rebounds, but it wasn't nearly enough to overcome solid defense as the Rams pulled away for a 55-41 victory earlier Saturday.
Central collapsed on the 6-foot Capouch whenever she got the ball in the post, but remained mindful of Skyview's other scorers, such as Stephanie Fitch and Katie Hoff. And it served the Rams well.
"Tenika's a great player," said Central's Kayla Lucas. "We knew coming in that we'd have to focus on shutting her down. We worked all week on pinching down, but we couldn't do that all the time because they've got a lot of great shooters, too.
"We worked on being quick on defense and fluster them so they couldn't get off good shots."
Lucas led the Rams with 16 points, and hit three 3-pointers, including one from the corner late in the fourth quarter to ice the game. She also converted a key three-point play driving to the hoop late in the third to halt a 12-1 scoring run by the Falcons.
"We looked at this game as a real good prep game for the rest of our league (season) going into divisionals," said Rams coach Jeff Malby. "Skyview's a good, physical team, and a good shooting team. We wanted to play our game and defend as well as we could. Tenika got her 20 but it was hard-earned. For the most part we did a pretty good job."
"They doubled down on (Capouch) or they always had two people there," Skyview coach Larry Newell said of Central's defensive plan. "The problem was we got frustrated and impatient and took shots out of rhythm. Congratulations to Central today. They played a total game. They beat is on the boards, they beat is in transition, they executed better ... they were the better team today."
The Rams improved to 7-3 overall heading into their game Thursday night at Eastern A rival Miles City. Skyview, which is off until Saturday when it hosts Butte, dipped to 6-7.