Cowboys drop 52-49 decision to Fergus Co.

A strong start turned into an unsuccessful finish as the Custer County District High School Cowboys fell 52-49 to the Fergus County Golden Eagles of Lewistown in boys basketball action on Saturday night at home.

Cowboys’ scoring leader and junior Gabe Gundlach was off his typical offensive game, notching only four points in the first half and adding just six more in the fourth quarter. 

Fergus was called on two charging fouls on their first two possessions of the game and the Cowboys jumped out to a quick 10-2 lead.

Junior Kaden Stradley and sophomore Steven Ray each hit two foul shots to drive the Cowboys’ score up to 14, but Golden Eagle Noah Agostinelli added two from the foul line to put the score at 14-4 at the end of one. 

Both teams hit the double-bonus foul shots early in the second quarter and the Cowboys were outscored 15-12, with seniors Kelly Irion and Tyler Burk each putting up four.

Senior forward Brooks Tally came off the Cowboys’ bench with two points in the quarter. 

“We got off to a slow start,” said Fergus head coach Scott Sparks. “But then where we really got it done was on the defensive end in the second half. We were able to stop their penetration and get out on their shooters.”

The Cowboys couldn’t generate shot opportunities in the third quarter, and when they did, they couldn’t find the bottom of the net. 

The Golden Eagles seized control with their first lead of the game, 32-31, when Tanner Trafton hit an unguarded basket.

The Golden Eagles outscored the Cowboys 13-5 in the third quarter.

“The urgency — [the idea] that every possession is important,” said CCDHS head coach Houston Finn, “we’re really struggling with that.”

Finn elaborated. “Offensively we didn’t execute well; we took bad shots. Defensively we didn’t get stops when we needed to. Rebounding…always, rebounding,” he said. 

The Cowboys gave up multiple second and third shot attempts to the Golden Eagles.

In the fourth quarter the Cowboys lost starters Stradley, Ray, Irion and Burk to fouls with a combined 35 points between them.

Before the four Cowboys hit the bench, there were nine lead changes, and Burk pulled the Cowboys ahead 43-41, but his final foul earned Fergus one point from the free throw line, and Jaden Graham turned a basket into a three-point play with a single free throw. 

The Cowboys then turned the ball over to Graham, who took the ball down on a breakaway for a two-handed dunk.

After another Fergus basket off a turnover, Gundlach answered with a three-pointer to bring the Cowboys within three.

With just under 50 seconds left in the game, the Fergus defense kept the Cowboys from pulling off a shot until Gundlach hit another three to tie the game — but it was waved off as Irion committed his fifth foul before the shot. 

Gundlach hit a long three at the top of the key at the game-ending buzzer, but it was too little too late for the Cowboys as Fergus took home the win 52-49. 

“Lewistown made the decision that they were going to go home on the winning side,” Finn said. 

Irion led Custer County in scoring with 13 points, while Burk contributed 12 points to the attack.