Big Sky keeps Bruins out of State AA Tourney for first time is six years
3/3/2017 1:51 PM

For the first time in six years, the Capital High boys will not becompeting in the State AA Basketball Tournament.

Host Capital, the Western Conference's No. 6 seed, was upended by No. 7Missoula Big Sky in the Bears' Den on Tuesday, 47-36.

The loss leaves the Bruins with a final season record of 3-18, and out ofthe State tourney for the first time since 2011. Big Sky, at 3-17, will meetNo. 3 seed and crosstown rival Sentinel on Friday, with the winner going toState.

After taking the lead 8-6 midway through the opening period, the Eagles ledthe rest of the way. Missoula was in front 13-7 heading into the secondquarter, built the lead 25-16 halftime, and extended the cushion to 38-21 goinginto the final frame.

Capital had swept both regular-season meetings by 8 and 12 pointsrespectively, and Big Sky coach Bryan Ferriter said that his players were awareof the old axiom that it's tough to beat a team three times in the same season.

"Yes, we mentioned that to the guys over the weekend, and they kindalatched on to that mindset," Ferriter said. "We came into tonightwith a playoff mentality, that everyone started this week 0-0. So we forgotabout the past, and now we're 1-0."

The Eagles outshot the hosts 46 percent (17 of 37) to 33 percent (14 of 42)from the floor, led by three cagers in double figures. Alex Simmons netted agame-high 13 points, followed by Nick Wakai and Nick Yovetich at 12 pointseach.

Brad Haller was Cacpital's top scorer, with 12 points, ahead of XavierMelice's eight. Marcus Welnel and Willie Gross had five and four counters,respectively. The Bruins could not buy a shot from 3-point land, going just 1of 12 (8 percent) from Downtown.

Bruin coach Guy Almquist was also concerned about the number three -- butin a different category.

"In these playoff games, the first three minutes are crucial,"Almquist explained. "The team that comes out with the most intensity andaggressiveness, usually goes on to win. And to Big Sky's credit, they came outmore ready to play than we were; they're aggressive set the tone of thegame."

Almquist added that rebounding -- or lack thereof -- was actually moreresponsible for the Bruin loss than shooting. The Garden City group crashed theboards for 37 rebounds, compared to just 19 for CHS. Yovetich speared agame-high 16 boards, while Melice was the team leader for the brown-and-goldwith four rebounds.

"Our issue was rebounding; you cannot win being out-rebounded37-19," he said. "We came out unprepared, and that's my fault for notgetting the guys ready to play tonight. And I apologize to my seniors forthat."

Capital started the night with an early 6-4 lead, on baskets by Gross,Welnel and Haller. But it would be the last time they were ahead.

Then the Eagles put together one of their three big runs on the night,outscoring the home team 11-1 for a 17-7 advantage early in the second.

They went up by 12, 22-10, before CHS' 6-0 run, on two Haller baskets and apair Parker Johnston free throws closed the gap to 22-16. But then a 3-pointbomb by Josh Malone, with the buzzer sounding as the ball was in flight, gavethe visitors a nine-point margin at halftime.

At 40-21 early in the final frame, the Eagles had their biggest lead of thenight, of 19 points.

But then, with Big Sky playing keep-away most of the remainder of thecontest, Capital out-scored their counterparts 15-7 down the stretch. Melicescored all of his eight points in the last seven minutes.

"Haller really hurt us the first two games, so we had a lot of guyscommitted to making sure he didn't make it a third time," Ferriter said."He saw our best defensive pressure of the season. And I have to admit, alot of it had to do with the fact that Capital's shooting was cold -- the ballwas not going in for them. They were out of rhythm, but we had something to dowith that, too."

Almquist praised his three seniors -- Haller, Welnel and Gross -= for theiryear-long perseverance during a tough season.

"They never quit, they never gave up. I just wish I could've done abetter job (of coaching) for them," he said.

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