Bruins top Rebels, 65-61, in thriller

Ryan Peerboom — Enterprise Staff Writer
Friday, January 24, 2020
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Enterprise photos by Ryan Peerboom

Gardiner’s Colter Long (20) sets his feet to take a charge against Shields Valley’s Aidan Jenkins while teammates flood the lane on Thursday at Gardiner High School.

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Elijah Byrd, center, attempts a driving layup over Dylan Flatt (20) and Kaden Acosta (12).

The Gardiner Bruins won a high-scoring game of shifting momentum against the Shields Valley Rebels on Thursday night at Gardiner High School. The Bruins closed out their thrilling, 65-61, win in the final minutes.

Both teams were firing on all cylinders from the start. Gardiner’s Jackson Bredenberg and Shields Valley’s Dylan Flatt each hit two 3-pointers early in the game to get both teams offenses rolling. A score from Gardiner’s Elijah Byrd on an iso play as time expired brought the Bruins within three, 16-13, of the Rebels.

The teams both kept pace in the second quarter, with neither team able to gain a significant lead. A late baseline jumper from Aidan Jenkins gave the Rebels a 30-25 lead at halftime.

Another make from Jenkins from the baseline and a 3-pointer shortly after pushed the Rebels lead to seven, but the lead didn’t last long. A 7-0 run from the Bruins, highlighted by a 3-point play from Byrd tied the game and forced a Rebel timeout.

Back-to-back Shields Valley 3-pointers from Jenkins and Cole Flatt gave the Rebels a 45-41 lead late in the third. As time expired, a calculated heave from beyond half court by Byrd found the bottom of the net to cut the Rebels lead to one, 45-44, heading into the fourth.

Byrd was just getting started.

On the first possession of the fourth, Byrd connected from 3-point land again and drew a foul in the process for a 4-point play. After a 3 from Bredenberg, Byrd struck again from deep on a catch-and-shoot 3-pointer. Shields Valley called a timeout to try and stem the tide, but Byrd stole the Rebels inbound pass out of the timeout and converted an easy layup. Another Gardiner make from Evan Guengerich in the post capped a 14-0 run to start the fourth and force the Rebels to call another timeout as they trailed 54-45.

With momentum fully in possession of Gardiner, Shields Valley wasted no time in taking it right back. In three consecutive offensive possessions, Dylan Flatt was left open and connected on three straight 3-pointers. In the blink of an eye, and with four minutes still left on the clock, the Bruins led by just four.

After the game, Flatt said he knew someone needed to hit some quality open looks at the hoop.

“When we went down thirteen I knew we had to get something going,” he said. “I did take three 3’s, but I knew they were all good shots and I knew they weren’t bad, contested shots so I just let it go and they went in.”

As the Rebels drew closer, a 3 from Kaden Acosta – who was back in the game after leaving with an injury – tied the score at 61 with just over two minutes left to play.

After the offense reigned for most of the game, the last two minutes were defined by tough defense. Gardiner was able to force turnovers and a post score from Taylor Rose put the Bruins up for good. Luke Stermitz iced the game with late free throws and the Bruins held on for a 65-61 win.

Byrd’s hot streak helped him score 21 points for the Bruins to go with five rebounds. Stermitz notched a double-double with 15 points and 10 boards. Rose added 12 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Jenkins led the Rebels on offense with 23 points. Dylan Flatt had 17 on five 3-pointers.

Gardiner head coach Brad Harbach said he was proud of the way his team never folded despite multiple runs from Shields Valley.

“I liked that we didn’t get down,” Harbach said. “There’s times where we maybe could have wilted a little bit and we made a big run which was really nice.”

Byrd’s run in the late third and early fourth sparked the Bruins offense. He said it wasn’t just him that made big plays.

“All of us stepped up, I just happened to be the one taking shots,” he said. “We knew at some point we all needed to step up because we had kind of been dazed the whole game.”

Harbach said it was fun to watch Byrd take over.

“It was fun to watch him,” he said. “He was in the zone, he knows it when he’s in the zone and we certainly give him leeway to (take over) as we do our other seniors as well.”

Shields Valley head coach Jacob Fisher was very positive about his team’s performance.

“Honestly, I’m pretty proud,” Fisher said. “No one likes losing, but those boys came out against a really good team. Gardiner’s looking really good this year and for us to come here and keep it a close game and a fun game and a battle, that’s nothing to hang your head on.”

Up next

Gardiner plays a road game at 7 p.m. on Saturday at West Yellowstone.

Shields Valley, also on the road, plays at 5 p.m. on Saturday at Absarokee.