Basketball dominates talk at Advantage Butte

The basketball topic was of mixed results in reports given at the March meeting of Advantage Butte held Monday at the Butte Plaza Inn.
The high school tournaments held in town seemed to be rousing successes, yet it looks like another one was lost for at least a year and another one that was hoped for won’t materialize, at least for another year.
Both the state Class AA combined boys’ and girls’ tournament held at the Butte Civic Center last weekend and the Western C Divisional combined tournament held last month at the Maroon Activities Center (MAC) received terrific reviews, venue managers said.
However, the Western C is probably headed out of town, anyway, next year, and a wished-for Class AA tip-off tourney planned for early December has been scuttled — for now. To counter, new on the hoops agenda, will be an expanded Butte Central Tip-Off tourney in December and an inaugural Western A SuperDivisional boys’ and girls’ tournament next February.
“Even without a Butte team in it, it was absolutely wonderful,” Bill Melvin, Civic Center manager said of the holding of the Class AA competition last Thursday through Saturday. “The Class AA tournament is our biggest event. No others are nearly as big.”
Melvin impressed that the help from Advantage Butte, Butte-Silver Bow government, the Butte-Silver Bow Chamber of Commerce and Community Counseling and Corrections Services, was all instrumental in the success of the tournament. The boys’ championship game Saturday night put about 5,000 fans in the seats even though championship games of tournaments in Bozeman, Billings, Great Falls, and the Big Sky Conference college basketball tournament in Missoula were all being played at the same time.
The Civic Center was host to 22 of the 24 tournament games with two loser-out games held Saturday morning in the Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym at Butte High. They were held the same time loser-outs were being played at the Civic Center, creating more rest time before the winners advanced to their respective consolation finals in the late afternoon at the Civic Center.
“We receive a lot of compliments from the AAs,” Marko Lucich, executive director of the chamber of commerce, said, referring to the competing schools’ administrators, coaches and fans.
MAC director Don Peoples Jr. noted that the crowds seemed “low” at the state A tourney in Bozeman compared to other years. He attended to watch Butte Central compete.
Melvin said the turnout and feedback is encouraging and, therefore, announced to the group that the arena will be bid for all 2017 state basketball tournaments. Bidding for such events will take place in April. The major Montana High School Association events for next school year have already been assigned and the Civic Center was awarded the state Class B boys’ and girls’ combined tournament next March.
Peoples said the Western C held at the MAC received its highest gate of the years the tourney has been played in Butte.
He said not all of the receipts have been counted yet, but the total will come in “six of seven thousand” above the previous year. The crowds were up in count, he said.
“The last night, for the championship games, we had to pull out the bleachers in our mezzanine for the first time,” he said.
The MAC seats about 3,200.
“Unfortunately, though, it looks like they’re moving that tourney to Hamilton next year,” he said. “It’s disappointing.”
Peoples said the MAC entered a bid, but a move from the schools located in the more western locales lobbied successfully to take the tourney to a venue closer to their homes, much like the more eastern-situated members of the division were able to take the District 11/12-C volleyball and basketball tourneys to Manhattan Christian’s facility in Churchill.
“So, the Western C volleyball will be the only tourney at the MAC next school year,” he said.
Peoples said he thought a plan to alternate the Western C basketball tourney between Butte and Hamilton in coming years is being considered. He added that the MAC will continue to bid on all Western C tournaments, and he is investigating the possibilities of luring Class B postseason competitions to the gym.
“The bidding for the tournaments is getting very competitive,” he said, adding that Missoula hotels and restaurants benefit from tournaments being held in Hamilton.
Also, Bozeman businesses receive a boost from tourneys in Churchill. However, that such commutes between the cities with the lodging and eateries and the facilities located in the smaller communities can be at least inconvenient was mentioned at the meeting.
Melvin said Class AA administrators met last Wednesday at the Civic Center to discuss the holding of a season-opening tip-off event in Butte where teams from the Eastern Conference could play against Western AA Conference members. Some Class AA teams never see each other in the regular season due to the distances between them and the winter driving hazards.
Melvin said some of the regional scheduling, now in effect, would have had to be given up and some Class AA members preferred not to relinquish it.
“The Billings schools are committed to going to Wyoming (to open the season),” he said. “And there were some other games they didn’t want to give up — (Class A members) Miles City, Hardin, Glendive, Sidney …
“We’ll keep trying.”
If all 14 Class AA schools would have come on board with the idea, then additional gym space would have been needed to accommodate games, Melvin said, but the solution was at hand.
“Tech would have behind it,” Matt Stepan, Montana Tech assistant athletic director said, noting that it would have been scheduled a weekend away from Montana Tech’s fall graduation ceremonies, opening the HPER Complex for such a use.
Peoples confirmed that the Butte Central tip-off, which has been an eight-school, 16-team tourney for several years with games played at the MAC and the Civic Center the opening weekend of basketball season, has picked up for more schools, eight more teams.
It has a boys’ bracket and a girls’ bracket. Sidney, Glendive, Miles City and Timberlake High School of Spirit Lake, Idaho, are the additions to the field, that already included Butte Central, Browning, Billings Central, Livingston, Hardin, Laurel, Belgrade and Salmon, Idaho.
The Western A SuperDivisonal will bring Southwestern A members Butte Central, Dillon, Corvallis, Hamilton and Stevensville, and Northwestern A members Polson, Whitefish, Columbia Falls and Frenchtown together in the Civic Center next Feb. 24-27. Anaconda, of the Southwestern A, and Libby, of the Northwestern A, are moving to Class B conferences next school year.
The SuperDivisional will send the top four boys’ teams and top four girls’ teams on to their respective state tournaments.
The State B combined is set for next March 10-12 in the Civic Center.
Melvin told the Advantage Butte group that the recently installed fiber optic network installed in the Civic Center by MERDI allowed for live streaming of the state AA tournament games last weekend to fans unable to be at the arena.
Butte Comfort Inn general manager Desiree Shogren, president of Advantage Butte, reported that $7,854.96 rests in the group’s checking account with all bills paid. She added that $2,500 of the amount in the account is earmarked for coming events Advantage Butte has agreed to underwrite. She also said about $19,000 is to probably come this spring from Butte-Silver Bow in an economic grant with which to pursue more events, including in the bidding process next month for high school championship competitions.
Melvin said next up for the Civic Center are the Skyline Sportsmen’s Association banquet on March 27, and a roller derby doubleheader on March 28. Butte’s Copper City Queens and the Bozeman Roller Girlz will be among the participants, he said.
Shogren told Advantage Butte the group received a thank-you letter from the Butte Tarpons Swim Team for the help given in the holding of a state meet the Tarpons played host to in early March at the Butte Family YMCA pool.
Lucich reminded the group that the 2015 Southwest Montana High School Basketball Classic will be held Wednesday in the MAC. The all-star doubleheader will start with the girls’ game at 6 p.m., followed by the boys’ tilt scheduled for 7:30. It involves top high school basketball players of the 2014-15 season from the Southwestern Montana area. Proceeds fund Advantage Butte/Chamber of Commerce hospitality rooms at the events held in Butte.
Kelly Howery of the Butte Soccer Club said 53 games over a nine-week stretch will be played on the Jeremy Bullock Memorial Soccer Fields, beginning on April 11. She said 40 teams from outside of Butte will be among those participating. Howery also said that an Academy Play Date has been scheduled for May 9 at the fields and will probably include 20 or more teams from U-12 or younger divisions.
Stepan talked about the Montana Tech men’s basketball team just missing the Frontier Conference playoffs despite posting the program’s first winning season (15-13) since the 1998-99 campaign. He also told about the Oredigger women’s team (12-19) having a late surge to make the conference playoffs and defeating Carroll in the first round before falling to NAIA nationally third-ranked Westminster in the semifinals. Montana Tech led league champion Westminster early.
“They had a halftime lead and just came up one run short,” Stepan said.
He told the group recent Butte High girls’ basketball standout Sammy McGree signed to join the Montana Tech program after sitting out of sports her freshman year of college. He said golf season is about to begin, that spring football will start next week and the spring game is scheduled for April 28.
Stepan also said work is starting on the Montana Tech/Carroll women’s volleyball invitational tourney set for Aug. 28-29.
Also representing the Butte Wrestling Club, Stepan said the Cyclops Invitational wrestling tournament held in February drew 829 wrestlers to the mats in the Civic Center. The accompanying junior tourney brought in an additional 300 entrants, he said.
The Butte club sent 47 contestants to the recently held state folkstyle tournament in Great Falls, he said. The next tourney to be held in Butte will be the Smith/McCarthy meet on April 11, Stepan confirmed.
Rody Holman of Paine West Insurance, and also speaking for the wrestling club, reported that Whittier won the recently held city grade school wrestling tournament, “unseating the four-time defending champion West Buffaloes.”
He said the city meet is another way grade schoolers can experience the sport and decide if they’d like to continue in it through the club. He reiterated that the club is still registering wrestlers with a lot of the freestyle season left to complete.
“We have a scholarship program if you know of someone who would like to wrestle but might not think they can afford it,” he said.
The next meeting of Advantage Butte is scheduled for noon on Tuesday, April 21 at the Metals Sports Bar & Grill. Renovations to the Perkins Restaurant in the Butte Plaza Inn are to be going on in April, owner Ray Ueland, said, necessitating the meeting venue change to the Metals. 1 comment

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  • Alan Dale
    March 18, 2015, 12:07 am

    These Advantage Butte guys do such a marvelous job getting things to Butte and then pulling out all the stop. Ron Davis? Keep cooking! Great stuff and just keep fighting for those tournaments. Best wishes. Great write up, Bruce.


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