When the Butte Central boys’ basketball team opens the Class A State tournament at 8 p.m. Thursday in Billings, the Maroons will not be doing anything out of the ordinary.
For one, Butte Central will play at State for the eighth time in nine years under head coach Brodie Kelly.
Also, the Maroons will be facing an opponent they know well when they take on Belgrade at the MetraPark Arena. (Bracket)
The Maroons and Panthers were rivals in the Central A division until BC moved back to the Southwestern A last season. The teams also played twice in each of the last two season.
This season, the Maroons split the season series with the Panthers. BC won 51-44 Dec. 20 at the Maroon Activities Center. Belgrade avenged the loss with a 45-40 win Feb. 5 at the Belgrade Special Events Center.
Butte Central (14-7) qualified for State by placing second at the Southwestern A Divisional tournament, which was Feb 21-23 at the MAC. The Maroons, who missed State last year, punched their ticket with a thrilling triple-overtime victory against defending Class A State champion Dillon in the semifinals.
BC fell to Stevensville in the title game the next night.
Belgrade (13-7) knocked off Browning (17-3) in the Central A title game to take the top seed to State.
Trevor Mahn, a 6-foot junior, scored 17 point to lead the Panthers past the Maroons in the last meeting. Mahn averages 11.2 to lead Belgrade to Billings. (Belgrade regular-season stats)
Brandon Karnath, a 6-foot, senior, averages 9.9 points and 4.9 rebounds in Belgrade’s balanced attack. Senior Jeremy Rager scores 9.0 point per game, while classmate Jared Bryant scores 8.9.
Senior guard Brady Tippett is the unquestioned leader of the Maroons. (Butte Central regular-season stats)
After averaging 15.3 points per game in the regular season, Tippett, who played every second of the triple-overtime win over Dillon, averaged 18 points in BC’s three divisional tournament games. That includes a 25-point performance in the title-game loss.
Nate Bolstad, who played through an illness at the divisional tournament, is looking to get back to his regular-season form that saw the 6-4 junior average 11.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game.
Junior guard Kale Guldseth had a big tournament after averaging 8.4 points per game in the season, while 6-3 sophomore Marcus Ferriter averaged 7.8 points and 6.2 boards.
Danny Peoples, Connor McGree, Emmett McCarthy and Dalton Session have been key contributors for the Maroons.
Wyatt Kingston, Chad Peterson, Kaemen Richards, Jimmy Martz and Dylan Goodell have also played for the Maroons this season.
Billings Central (14-6) or Frenchtown (10-10) will await the winner of the Butte Central-Belgrade game. Those teams play at 6:30.
Billings Central is the No. 1 seed out of the Eastern A. Frenchtown is the second-place team from the Northwest.
On the other side of the bracket, Laurel (19-2) is the No. 2 seed after falling upset to Billings Central. The Locomotives take on Columbia Falls (15-5), the Northwest A champion, at 12:30.
Southwestern A champion Stevensville (17-3) plays Browning (17-3) at 2.
Butte Central’s next win will by No. 140 for Kelly, who is 139-69 since taking over the Maroons in 2004.