Gillette College men’s basketball is perfect after a three-game weekend, finishing with a 103-65 blowout of the Rocky Mountain College JV team.
The Bears kept the score within 20 points at the end of the first half, but the Pronghorns (7-0) was even better in the second half and outscored the Billings, Montana, team 52-31 in their largest margin of victory so far this season.
“I just wanted our guys to play hard, and sometimes those are hard games because they look at it a little differently,” Pronghorns coach Shawn Neary said about playing the NAIA junior varsity team. “I thought our guys did that today and we got to play everybody.”
To start the first half, the Pronghorns couldn’t break away from the Bears until Pronghorn point guard Mason Archambault went on a 20-second scoring tear with 15:50 left to play. Archambault sunk a 3-point basket, stole the ball and scored a layup in transition then stole the ball again and was fouled on his shot to score seven points within 20 seconds.
With that, the Pronghorns took a 21-11 lead and had set a tone.
Archambault led the Pronghorns in the first half with 15 points and made five of the seven shots he took, including 3-of-4 from 3-point range. Neary said Archambault needed to shoot more this weekend.
“I feel more confident in my shot. It feels way better than it did at the start of the year,” said Archambault, who finished with 17 points and only played 5 minutes in the second half.
Rocky Mountain didn’t lay down, however, and Bears guard Tanner Goligoski hit an open 3-point shot to bring his team’s deficit down to 40-34 with 4:42 left in the half.
It was all Gillette College for the rest of the first half. Archambault scored his third 3-pointer on the next possession, then Jayden Coke hit a pair of his free throws after he was fouled. Gillette’s Isaac Mushila scored on a layup next and forward Bradley Akhile hit two layups in the final 30 seconds.
When the flurry was over, the Pronghorns had gone on an 11-0 run to finish the first half ahead 51-34.
The Pronghorns came out for the second half and continued the scoring streak with eight unanswered points. They didn’t allow a Bears bucket for nearly 4 minutes to start the second half, and got themselves to a 59-34 lead.
“We come stronger in the second half,” Mushila said, referring to the previous night’s come-from-behind victory over Dawson Community College when Gillette trailed 40-31 at half. “Whenever the game starts, we have to start going hard all the time, first half and the second half.”
Gillette College freshman guard Gary Solomon took control of the second half and scored 15 points to finish the game with a team-high 22 points on 9-of-14 shooting.
“He’s tough. He knows what to do with the ball,” Mushila said. “All the time he wants to drive to the basket.”
He set up one of the highlights of the game when he and Coke ran down the court, undefended, after a steal. Solomon threw the ball up to the left side of the rim, Coke jumped and slammed it home for the alley-oop to make the score 79-45.
Gillette College maintained a 30-point or better lead for the rest of the game.
The Pronghorns shot 58% from the field and 44% from 3-point range, while they held the Bears to 42% field goal shooting in the game.
Gillette College beat Dawson Community College 82-80 on Friday and Colorado Northwestern Community College 74-58 on Thursday in the weekend home-opener.
Neary said the key for the team’s early success has been having players who can come off the bench and keep up with the starters.
“I feel like we can play nine, 10 guys,” Neary said. “I think our best teams through the years have been able to play eight, nine guys pretty consistently. … It’s hard to play JUCO basketball and not be deep.”
The Pronghorns are scheduled to play Jamestown JV on Friday before a rematch with Dawson Community College on Saturday. Both games will be in Glendive, Montana.