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Epperly, Braves go big, handle Helena Capital

by FRITZ NEIGHBOR
Daily Inter Lake | February 18, 2021 11:14 PM

Ezra Epperly started things in the right direction and Gabe Adams finished, and the Flathead Braves took a satisfying 58-46 home win over Helena Capital Thursday night.

Epperly, Flathead’s 6-foot-9 senior center, scored 17 points to go with eight rebounds. Adams, a senior forward, added 14 points and 14 boards.

Together they helped the Braves (5-6) dominate the glass 40-23, despite playing zone defense most of the way.

Joston Cripe had 11 points and Ethan VandenBosch 10 points and seven boards, but Epperly set the tone early – his dunk made it 6-0 at 5:25 of the first quarter – and often. He had 15 points by halftime, and the Braves had a 30-20 lead.

“By far this is the best game I’ve seen Ezra play for us this season,” said Braves’ coach Dirk Johnsrud. “He was great on the boards but he was also attacking the basket.”

Adams fed Epperly for an old-fashioned three-point play that put Flathead ahead 14-8 early in the second period; the gap grew to 26-14 on a VandenBosch 3-pointer, then 28-14 when Epperly put back a VandenBosch miss with 3:30 left in the first half.

“Gabe’s so good inside,” said Epperly, who was 7-for-10 from the floor in the first half. “He gets me open a lot of times. He draws people to him and that gets me easy baskets.”

“I don’t think he’s working off me,” countered Adams, a long-time teammate. “I just think Ezra’s a spectacular basketball player. I know no one’s seen that from Ezra on the varsity court, but none of us are surprised.

“In open gyms, he’ll hit a three, a three, a fader and then dunk on somebody. He just played his game tonight, and his game’s a 6-foot-9 kid that can shoot threes and get dunks.”

Epperly fired up no threes; VandenBosch, though, nailed one for a 46-30 lead early in the fourth quarter. One of Cripe’s five assists went to Adams for a basket and a 54-35 lead with 4:13 left.

Capital then pressed full-court and put some worry into the home crowd: A flurry of turnovers followed, and threes from Brayden Koch and Malachi Syvrud started and ended an 11-2 run.

It was 56-46 with 2:13 remaining, and the Bruins (4-6) had chances to get closer, but Adams turned away one drive with a blocked shot, and Epperly had a steal. Two Cripe free throws capped the scoring with 1:09 left.

“I’m so proud of the way the kids competed tonight,” said Johnsrud, who started Luca Zoeller in place of the still-injured Hunter Hickey. “The fact we dominated the boards the way we did tells a lot about the character of these kids.

“Offensively I thought we got going because we fed the ball inside. I thought that was a difference maker in the game.”

Flathead heads on the road to play Helena High Saturday.

Capital 6 14 10 16 – 46

Flathead 11 19 13 15 – 58

HELENA CAPITAL – Trysten Mooney 0-3 0-0 0, Tyler Tenney 1-8 0-0 3, =Hayden Opitz 1-4 0-4 0, Brayden Koch 8-13 2-2 23, Malachi Syvrud 5-10 1-2 14, Jacob Curry 0-2 0-0 0, Derrick Kirkland 0-2 0-0 0, Luke Dowdy 2-4 0-0 4, Nick Michelotti 0-2 0-0 0, Carson VanHemelryck 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Kovick 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 17-48 3-8 46.

FLATHEAD – Ethan VandenBosch 4-9 0-0 10, Gabe Adams 6-9 2-2 14, Ezra Epperly 8-14 1-2 17, Luca Zoeller 2-4 1-2 6, Joston Cripe 3-12 4-5 11, Gavin Chouinard 0-0 0-0 0, Connor Phillips 0-0 0-0 0, Morgan Pound 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 23-50 8-11 58.

3-point goals – Capital 8-19 (Koch 4-8, Syvrud 3-3, Tenney 1-1), Flathead 4-13 (VandenBosch 2-3, Zoeller 1-3, Cripe 1-7). Rebounds – Capital 23 (Opitz 5), Flathead 40 (Adams 14). Fouls – Capital 14, Flathead 11. Steals – Capital 7 (Koch 2), Flathead 7 (Cripe 3). Blocks – Capital 1 (Dowdy), Flathead 7 (Epperly 4, Adams 2, :Phillips). Turnovers – Capital 12, Flathead 17.

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Flathead's Joston Cripe (34) shoots a three-pointer against Helena Capital at Flathead High School on Thursday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Flathead's Luca Zoeller (23) shoots a three-pointer guarded by Helena Capital's Brayden Koch (3) at Flathead High School on Thursday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Flathead's Ethan VandenBosch (21) looks to shoot over Helena Capital's Hayden Opitz (0) at Flathead High School on Thursday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Flathead's Joston Cripe (34) drives into the paint against Helena Capital at Flathead High School on Thursday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)

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Flathead's Gabe Adams (24) goes to the basket against Helena Capital at Flathead High School on Thursday. (Casey Kreider/Daily Inter Lake)