By Derek Hendrickson
The Dillon Beavers used their pressure defense to jump out to an 11-0 start and never looked back, handing the Maroons one of the worst defeats in the history of the Maroon Activities Center, 69-45 Saturday night.
Tanner Haverfield led a balanced Dillon attack with 20 points, including several on breakaway layups as the 1-3-1 zone and full court press forced the Maroons into 20 turnovers, eight of which came in the first quarter as the Beavers raced out to a 14-2 edge after one.
Unlike the first matchup in Dillon last month the Maroons could never recover to make a game of it. On Jan. 7, Dillon led 15-4 after one but only 22-18 at the break. Saturday, Central got five quick points from Nate McGree to cut the lead to 14-7 but a seven point burst was started with a Haverfield triple and it was 26-13 at the half in this one.
The Maroons matched their point total with 13 turnovers and probably were fortunate to only be down 13 at the break. Any doubts to the outcome were quickly ended as McGree’s layin was the only Central score between 5-0 and 6-0 Beaver runs to make it 37-15.
The lead bulged to 26 in the third at 48-22 and reached 29 with 5:45 left in the fourth, when Dillon coach Terry Thomas cleared his bench and put in his reserves.
Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly spoke at length about his team and some of the trials and tribulations they have faced in recent weeks, saying “I think it is confidence and belief in each other. I can’t put my finger on it right now, we’ve been streaky, we played awesome before Christmas, dropped three in a row, struggling, get it together, beat a really good Helena team on the road, beat an Anaconda team that’s having a great year, won some tough games, played some great basketball, played some awesome basketball for a little more than a half against Belgrade but since the four minute mark of that game down there we have just been struggling and we’re all trying to figure out why. We are the same guys playing the same system trying to do the same things and it’s funny how much of a mental game, sports in general, but high school hoops just is. A lot of it is just what’s going on upstairs and we’re just going to have to do our best to figure it out.”
Another Similarity between this game and the first was the excellent matchup of Haverfield and McGree. In Dillon Haverfield had 22 to McGree’s 19. Saturday, McGree led all scorers with 23 but for the second time came up on the losing end against the Beavers
McGree’s performance wasn’t the only bright spot as freshman Cade Holter came off the bench to make an impact with seven points and seemed to be around every loose ball. Senior Tyler Kump has continued to carve out a role and had five points in the fourth. Tanner Kump and Cole Harper both added two and Sam Johnston swished two free throws for Central’s first points, almost 7 minutes into the game.
“I thought Cade Holter was awesome tonight,” Kelly said. “I was really proud of what he did in there. I thought Nate’s second half was great, showed some fight and again when Tyler Kump came in he competed and did what he was supposed to do.”
Dillon moved to 12-2 overall and 5-0 in the Southwestern A. They have all but locked up the top seed heading into the inaugural Super Divisional in 3 weeks as they have a tw0 game lead with three conference games left in the regular season. Dillon has yet to lose in Class A on the year as both defeats came at the hands of Helena’s two AA schools.
The Beavers dressed 13 players and all of them saw time. Eleven of them scored and Nick Huber joined Haverfield in double figures with 10.
Central also got minutes out of juniors Riley Richardson and Archie Petritz. Petritz made his first start of the season.
The Maroons slumped to a fourth straight loss, falling to 8-7 on the season and 3-4 in conference. Any hopes of improving their seed is likely lost and they will almost certainly head in to the postseason slotted as the number 3 team in the Southwest, facing the 2 seed out of the Northwest, currently Frenchtown, coached by former Butte High and Montana Tech star Mark Quinn.
Speaking of Butte High, the Maroons will play for the City Championship in their next outing, Thursday evening at the Civic Center. Central’s biggest win of the season came when they stepped up a class and knocked off Helena High on the road as Kelly mentioned and perhaps a return to that level will inspire some of the early season form that saw the Maroons at 8-3 and ranked 3rd in the state.
Kelly was asked about and possible game plan changes after the game and said “X’s and O’s are an overemphasized part of this game. Basketball is pretty a simple game and it’s been played for a long time. There’s only so many things you can do out there and it’s more about guys making plays, doing it together, doing it hard and believing in what you’re doing and that matters far more than any strategy does.”
“It was really a disappointing performance and they know that so it doesn’t need to be pointed out, Kelly went on to say. “What I try to tell these guys is to remember what we’ve done when we’ve been at our best. No one is feeling good about themselves and we’re just going to have to try and regroup and remember what we’re capable of. They are easy answers but those guys in that room are going to have to figure it out.”