By Bill Foley
The resilience of the Butte Central boys’ basketball team is going to be tested Saturday morning.
The Maroons will put their season on the line against Corvallis at 8 a.m. at the Maroon Activities Center.
BC will appear in the loser-out game of the Western A Divisional basketball tournament after running into the buzz saw that is the Dillon Beavers, who scored the game’s first 10 points and rolled to a 59-29 win over the Maroons in Friday’s semifinal game at the Butte Civic Center. Stat sheet
“I think it’s going to be a challenge for us,” said BC coach Brodie Kelly, whose Maroons swept the season series against the Blue Devils. “But if there’s one thing this group has shown it is really high character.”
Despite the loss, which Kelly said really stung because it came before a big hometown crowd, the Maroons can still lock up a trip to the Class A State tournament with a victory. A win would also send the Maroons (11-9) to the 3 p.m. third-place game at the Civic Center.
Dillon (18-2) clinched a berth in the state tournament with the win, which sets up Saturday’s 6:30 championship game against Polson.
The win was the third for the Beavers over Butte Central this season. Like the two regular-season games, the Maroons never led.
After taking command with the first 10 points, Dillon led 16-2 at the end of the first quarter.
Kelly said it took the Maroons time to get used to the Dillon defense. The Beavers are quick, athletic and relentless with their zone and man-to-man defense.
“It didn’t matter if they were in their 1-3-1, man or their zone press,” Kelly said. “Every second you’re doing it with a guy in your grill.”
That is something a team can’t simulate to prepare for a game, Kelly said.
“It’s hard to create the same kind of pressure at practice,” the coach said. “So you get into that game and the first two minutes, maybe it’s about getting your bearings.”
On the flip side, an early lead was just what the Beavers ordered. In the regular season, Dillon led 8-0 and 11-0 to start games against the Maroons.
“That helps. It really does,” Dillon coach Terry Thomas said. “It allows your kids to play with confidence and ease into the game a little bit.”
The Maroons bounced back in the second quarter.
Tanner Kump sandwiched a Nate McGree inside bucket with a pair of 3-pointers to open the frame, and BC held Dillon scoreless for the first 4 minutes, 18 seconds of the quarter.
Payton Lafrentz, though, drove for an old-fashioned three-point play to restart the Beavers, who led 27-15.
Dillon put the game away with a 21-4 third quarter.
“We did a nice job making them shoot guarded shots,” Thomas said. “We didn’t give up a whole lot of open looks.”
Ten different Dillon players scored points, with Nate Simkins leading the way with 10 points. Troy Anderson added 10. Dillon also got seven from Lafrentz, Nick Huber and Tanner Haverfield.
“We were really unselfish offensively,” Thomas said. “We were able to find the guy who was open and get him the ball.”
Kump’s nine points paced the Maroons. Freshman Cade Holter came off the bench to score seven points, while McGree scored six points.
BC also got three from Cole Harper, two from Dan McCloskey and one from Riley Richardson and Tyge Yelenich.
Sam Johnston, Brian McGeehan, Tyler Kump, Zach Carlson and Archie Petritz also played for the Maroons, who played perhaps their best game of the season in Thursday’s win over Whitefish.
“We’re the same team that played outstanding basketball yesterday,” Kelly said. “We didn’t all of a sudden become a bad team. We played against a really good team, and we certainly did not bring our best tonight. I don’t think we fought the way we needed to.”
The Beavers, meanwhile, head to the title game riding high.
“We feel like we’ve really been playing well,” Thomas said. “Our players are playing with a lot of confidence, and we’ve got a lot of kids who contribute off our bench.”