Danny Little knows a little about playing on the big stage as a ninth-grader.
The senior center for the Billings Skyview boys basketball team played for the Falcons' varsity as a freshman, helping Skyview to its first State AA tournament berth since 1997.
So when freshman Kooper Kidgell played a starring role in the Falcons' 52-47 overtime victory over Great Falls CMR on Saturday afternoon, Little was one of the least-surprised people in the Skyview gym.
“He's a good player,” Little said. “Good players make good shots. It doesn't matter what age they are.”
Among Kidgell's good shots Saturday, none was bigger than his 3-pointer with 6.1 seconds left that erased a 41-38 CMR lead and forced overtime.
Kidgell's shot came after a Skyview timeout, which came after CMR's Bryan Durocher hit two free throws with 11.8 seconds left. The Falcons drew up a play to get Kidgell a 3-point attempt, but it wasn't one of their usual set plays.
“We've never run that play in practice,” Skyview coach Toby Hill said with a smile. “All the credit for that goes to our assistant coaches. That's a play our sophomore and JV teams run, so Kooper is familiar with it. We showed it to the kids in the timeout and they went out and executed it.”
The 6-foot-1 Kidgell, who saw extended varsity time this weekend because of injuries to starting guards Conner Smyle and Connor Lebsock, credited his teammates with executing the play.
“It worked perfect. I got open, and I knocked it down,” he said. “Coach (Jeremy) Carlson came up with it during the timeout and we went out and ran it.
“I'm just glad they picked me to step in and play this weekend, and glad they picked me to take that shot. I wasn't nervous. I feel like I'm always ready to knock one down. That's just the way I play.”
Little had 17 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots to cap a big weekend for the Falcons, who defeated Great Falls High on a Dallin Stott tip-in at the buzzer Friday night.
Kidgell added 12 points and Stott and Matt Davis scored eight each for Skyview, and Davis also pulled down eight rebounds.
Skyview outscored CMR 11-6 in overtime despite making just 3 of 10 free-throw attempts in the extra frame. Little made a layup off a perfect pass from Haakon Nordrum to put Skyview up for good at 45-43 with 1:54 left.
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With 1:20 left, Kidgell hit a reverse layup off an inbound pass from Stott to make it 47-44, and Little sealed it with 42 seconds left with an offensive rebound and put-back to make it 50-46.
“It was disappointing to let (Kidgell) get that shot off to put it into overtime,” CMR coach John Cislo said. “We thought they would go to him, we just had poor communication on defense there.
“Skyview is a good team, and they played well when they had to. That (3-pointer) gave them momentum going into overtime and they took advantage of it. We hit a shot at the buzzer to force overtime here a couple of years ago and ended up winning. Momentum is a big part of these games.”
Tyler Stanich and Cody Clausen scored nine points each to lead CMR. Gavin Hagfors added eight points and Russ Morin seven for the Rustlers, who were outrebounded 49-38.
“We started slow again (Skyview trailed 11-2 in the first quarter) and we missed a lot of easy baskets, but our defense and rebounding kept us in it again,” Hill said. “We played with a lot of energy and aggressiveness inside, especially Danny Little and Matt Davis.
“The last five games, Danny has played the way we expect him to play every night. He's been aggressive going to the rim and defending the post, and the rest of our kids feed off that.”
The win lifts Skyview to 9-4 overall and 4-3 in the Eastern AA. The two-time defending state champion Rustlers — who lost at Billings Senior on Friday — are 9-5 and 3-4.
Skyview hosts Senior on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. in a rematch of the Broncs' 51-44 win on Jan. 25. CMR returns to Billings on Friday, Feb. 18, to face West.
Skyview 52, CMR 47 (OT)
CMR 14 9 6 12 6 — 47
Skyview 10 11 7 13 11 — 52
Great Falls CMR (9-5, 3-4) — Kurtis Parsons 2-13 0-0 5, Tyler Stanich 3-6 3-4 9, Cody Clausen 4-7 0-0 9, Gavin Hagfors 1-8 6-8 8, Russ Morin 3-8 0-1 7, Bryan Durocher 0-2 2-2 2, Isaiah Collins 0-0 0-0 0, Joey Marizion 2-4 0-1 5, Josh Horner 1-1 0-0 2, Jayse McLean 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 16-50 11-17 47. 3-pointers: 4-15 (Clausen 1-1, Morin 1-2, Marizion 1-3, Parsons 1-5, Stanich 0-1, Durocher 0-1, Hagfors 0-2). Rebounds: 38 (Parsons 6, Hagfors 6). Assists: 11 (Stanich 6). Steals: 5 (Stanich 2). Blocks: 1 (Parsons). Turnovers: 13. Total fouls: 24. Fouled out: Clausen, Morin.
Billings Skyview (9-4, 4-3) — Dallin Stott 3-9 2-6 8, Matt Fuhrman 0-9 3-6 3, Tommy Little 0-1 0-0 0, Matt Davis 4-10 0-0 8, Danny Little 6-10 5-12 17, Kooper Kidgell 4-11 2-4 12, Haakon Nordrum 0-1 0-0 0, Kyle Zwicker 2-4 0-3 4. Totals: 19-55 12-31 52. 3-pointers: 2-11 (Kidgell 2-6, Stott 0-1, T. Little 0-1, Zwicker 0-1, Fuhrman 0-2). Rebounds: 49 (D. Little 9, Davis 9). Assists: 5 (Fuhrman 2, Davis 2). Steals: 7 (Zwicker 2, D. Little 2). Blocks: 6 (D. Little 5). Turnovers: 8. Total fouls: 15. Fouled out: None.