Missoula Hellgate boys blister Great Falls early in non-league tuneup

GREAT FALLS – If the Missoula Hellgate boys basketball team plays as well every quarter this season like it played the first period Tuesday night, the Knights might not lose another game.

But it will be tough to match those opening eight minutes at Bison Fieldhouse.

Coach Jeff Hays’ squad bolted to a 19-point lead after one quarter against Great Falls High en route to a 63-53 victory in the final non-league tuneup for both Class AA schools. The final margin of victory was whittled by a late surge that saw the Bison score more than half their points – 27 – in the final quarter.

“We came out very tentative and (Hellgate) certainly didn’t come out tentative at all,” said veteran GFH coach Bob Howard, whose team dropped to 2-2 entering Eastern AA play this weekend. “They’re a good team and (Connor) Dick is one of the best players in AA, and that kid made some nice shots off the bench.”

“That kid” was sophomore guard Chance McNulty, who drilled 11 of his 17 points in the first quarter as Hellgate (3-1) blew out to a 23-4 lead. Fellow sophomore guard Easton Sant added six points in the first period as he directed an offense that made 10 of its 15 field goal attempts as Great Falls was going 1-for-9.

Sant finished with 15 points and numerous assists, and the 6-foot-4 Dick – the only Knight taller than 6-2 – tallied a game-high 21 points with solid inside moves.

“McNulty is capable of shooting the ball like that but that’s the first time he’s actually done it,” said Hays, who s