By Bill Foley
When Butte High boys’ basketball coach Matt Luedtke saw the Dillon Beavers Tuesday night, he got a glimpse of what he hoped is Bulldogs can become.
Dillon scored nine of the game’s first 11 points, and the Beavers went wire to wire to knock off the Bulldogs 66-48 in a non-conference game at the Butte Civic Center.
“They outplayed us in every facet of the game,” Luedtke said. “We got out coached, we got out hustled, we got outplayed.
“Hats off to them,” the coach continued. “You’ve got to appreciate them as a fan and as a coach. That’s where we’d like to be.”
Instead, the Bulldogs dropped to 1-5 overall in their first of three games this week. They are smack dab in the middle of a stretch of five games in eight days.
“It’s disappointing because I would have liked to put up a better fight than that,” Luedtke said. “At the end of the day, we’ve just got to get better.”
The Bulldogs stumbled into a common theme for the sixth straight game. Butte High got off to a slow start.
Even in their lone win, Butte High needed to overcome a 22-point deficit to win Friday at Kalispell Flathead.
Falling behind a defensive juggernaut like Dillon is not something many teams can overcome.
Every time it looked like the Bulldogs were going to climb back into the game, the 5-2 Beavers had an answer.
Butte High pulled to with 11-9 with 1 minute, 2 seconds left in the first quarter when freshman Tocher Lee took an inbound pass from Kenley Leary and sank a 3-pointer from the corner.
Dillon responded when junior Tyler Lagunas sank a 3-pointer. Caden Hansen followed with a steal and fed Kee Christiansen with a bucket to close out the quarter with a 16-9 Dillon advantage.
Leary opened the second quarter by burying a 3-pointer off a pass from Cameron Gurnsey. Dillon, though, followed with a 15-4 run that was ignited by one of may putbacks by 6-foot-5 senior Connor Curnow.
“Boy, he rebounded the ball well,” Dillon coach Terry Thomas said of Curnow, who scored a game-high 22 points. “He just has that knack. He has a feel for when its coming and when to get there. He’s strong and pretty athletic underneath there.”
Fellow senior Jonathan Kirkley scored eight of his 21 points in the second quarter to help the Beavers take a 30-19 lead into halftime.
Kirkley scored inside, outside and in transition. Nine of his points came from behind the 3-point line.
“Kirkley, of course, is on the front end of the zone,” Thomas said. “Whenever we do have a chance to get things going, he’s off and good things happen.”
Like it has in so many Class A state championship runs, defense led the Beavers.
“We’re really proud of the effort from our kids on the defensive end,” Thomas said. “It allows us to mix up a little zone and man and get after things. That usually helps jumpstart our offense.
“It all starts on that defensive end.”
Thomas pointed out that his team has been inconsistent on the offensive end. He said the Beavers have overcome that with the effort on the other side of the floor.
“As long as we’re working really hard down there on the other end, we feel like we can beat anybody,” he said.
After Dillon opened the lead to 43-25 midway through the third quarter, Butte High made a run. A putback by Jonas Sherman started a 7-0 Butte High run as the Bulldogs drove to the hoop three straight possessions.
With the lead cut to 43-32 after Jace Stenson drove for a bucket, Dillon quickly got back and Kirkley scored in transition to kill the Bulldog momentum.
Dillon led 53-40 after there quarters, and the Beavers destroyed any Bulldog comeback hopes by holding Butte High to just two points over the first 5 minutes, 47 seconds of the fourth.
Luedtke said the rough start was the undoing of the Bulldogs.
“I just didn’t think we were aggressive enough,” the coach said. “We talked about slow starts all year. We had a slow start, and we just didn’t rebound from it.”
Nine different Dillon players scored in the win. Eli Nourse tossed in six points, while Christiansen tossed in five. Callahan Hoffman joined Lagunas with three points, and Hansen, Max Davis and Carsten Lemelin each netted two.
Leary led the Bulldogs with 11 points. The senior guard hit three 3-pointers and left the arena with a big scratch on his face.
Kooper Klobucar scored eight, Stenson and Gurnsey each tossed in seven, and Sherman came off the bench to score six.
The Bulldogs also got four from Dylan Bache, three from Lee and two from Garret Sharp. Bache and Sharp are freshman, as is Alex Watson, who came off the bench to contribute. Sophomore Colton Shea saw time, and sophomore Bo Demarais got his first start and contributed for the Bulldogs.
Butte High will jump back into Western AA, where Butte High is 1-1, Thursday at Missoula Big Sky. The Bulldogs will host Missoula Hellgate Saturday at the Civic Center.
Luedtke, who claimed full responsibility for the loss, said the heavy schedule is stopping him from making adjustments and running his team through some drills. Still, he said the Bulldogs will work to improve.
“We have a lot to learn,” Luedtke said. “We’ve got to go back to the drawing board, and I’ve got to figure out a way to get the most out of these guys. Hopefully we can get it done quick because we’ve got a game in two days and another in four days.”
Even at 1-5, Luedtke said he really likes the potential of his Bulldogs.
“We’re just undisciplined, and that’s a reflection on me. I’m not doing a good job,” he said. “But I really love this team and, and I love this group of guys. It’s a great group of kids. I just need to do a better job for them so we’re not having performances like this anymore.”
The Beavers will head to Frenchtown Friday for a Southwestern A game with the Broncs. Hamilton will head to Dillon on Saturday.
That, remarkably, will mark Dillon’s first home game of the season.
“It will just be nice to not have to get on a bus,” Thomas said.
DILLON (5-2) — Connor Curnow 7 7-8 22, Caden Hansen 0 2-2 2, Eli Nourse 2 0-0 6, Jonatan Kirkley 9 0-0 21, Callahan Hoffman 1 1-2 3, Kee Christiansen 2 0-0 5, Max Davis 1 0-0 2, Tyle Lagunas 1 0-0 3, Carsten Lemelin 1 0-0 2, Treyton Graham 0 0-0 0. Totals 24 10-12 66.
BUTTE HIGH (1-5) — Jace Stenson 2 2-4 7, Cameron Gurnsey 2 2-6 7, Kenley Leary 3 2-2 11, Bo Demarais 0 0-0 0, Kooper Klobucar 4 0-0 8, Jonas Sherman 3 0-0 6, Tocher Lee 1 0-0 3, Dylan Bache 1 2-7 4, Colton Shea 0 0-0 0, Alex Watson 0 0-0 0, Garret Sharp 1 0-0 2. Totals 17 8-19 48.
Dillon 16 16 21 13 — 66
Butte 9 19 21 8 — 48
3-point goals — Dillon 8 (Kirkley 3, Nourse 2, Curnow 1, Christiansen 1, Lagunas 1), Butte 6 (Leary 3, Stenson 1, Gurnsey 1, Lee 1). Fouls — Dillon 17, Butte 16. Fouled out — Stenson. Technicals — none.