BOZEMAN — Cam Rothie took the ball from just past half-court, drove to his right, lifted up a soft layup that went in, was fouled, and the celebration began for the Hamilton Broncs.
Rothie then buried the free throw, and Hamilton topped Belgrade 66-63 in a loser-out game of the State A boys' basketball tournament on Friday afternoon at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.
"We were doing pick-and-roll throughout the whole game because they weren't switching so Tyler Chouinard set one up top for me and I came around the corner," Rothie said among congratulations from Hamilton students and fans. "If the guy in the corner would've crashed I would've kicked, and he didn't, so I went up and got fouled and put it in.
"I knew I got fouled so I knew I was getting free throws anyway so I was like, 'Let's make it a three-point lead and make them at least shoot a half-court shot.'"
Rothie knocked down his layup with three seconds left in the game. Belgrade heaved a half-court shot that was off and the Broncs lived to fight another day.
Rothie was one of four Broncs who finished in double-figures scoring. Carter Kearns led the team with 18 while Rothie finished with 17. Hunter Omlid and Tanner Goligoski each had 12. As a team the Broncs shot the ball 42 percent from the field and shot 9 for 26 from three.
Trailing 56-47 with four minutes left, Kearns and Rothie led a furious charge for Hamilton (24-1). The duo combined for Hamilton's final 19 points, with Kearns scoring 12 of his points then. Then, down six, Kearns drilled a 3-pointer and Rothie immediately followed up with a steal and layup to bring Hamilton within one point with 1:33 left.
Belgrade's Dawson Fowler went to the line next, and made one of two free throws. Hamilton came the other way, and Rothie missed two free throws but Kearns grabbed the miss and scored with just under 40 seconds to play. Belgrade was unable to score on the other end, setting the Broncs up for Rothie's game-winner.
"It was exciting to see those guys make big plays, especially Carter," Hamilton coach Travis Blome said. "He was struggling a little bit in the first game (against Billings Central) and then really came up huge for us. It's just exciting. Our main goal was gone but just the mental toughness of those guys to come through in the end really made me proud as a coach."
Frenchtown 53, Butte Central 40: Friday's State A tournament kicked off with two teams that are quite familiar with one another, and Frenchtown ended up the victor, topping Butte Central.
Zach Baker scored 16 points to lead the Broncs and Cade Baker added 11 and Frenchtown (17-10) will play in another loser-out game on Saturday morning at 10:30 a.m.
Frenchtown took control right away, leading 18-9 at the end of the first quarter. Butte Central used an 8-0 run to get within one point to open the second, but Frenchtown used a 7-0 run of its own to end the quarter and go into halftime up eight. Frenchtown shot the ball just under 53 percent for the game while holding the Maroons to 38 percent shooting.
"Today, maybe it was our comfort level with Butte Central, this being our fifth meeting," Frenchtown coach Mark Quinn said. "It's crazy how often we've played them. They realized this morning when we checked out of the hotel, they realized, 'Oh crap, this is for real.'
"They came out with great energy and we played together. That's our big key every game. When we play together we're a lot better."
Butte Central ended its season at 16-10. Cade Holter scored 10 points to lead the Maroons.