By Bill Foley
Friday was a night for the unsung heroes at the Richardson Gym.
Butte High’s boys’ basketball team got 29 points off the bench, and the Bulldogs completed the season sweep of Kalispell Flathead with a 64-57 Western AA victory.
“We just played as a team,” said senior reserve Ryan Burt. “We talked about it in the locker room, we’ve all got to contribute.”
Burt, who was a force on defense and the boards, scored eight of his 12 points in the second half to help the Bulldogs turn back a Flathead team that kept answering with big shots and key plays.
“Ryan Burt was awesome tonight,” Butte High coach Matt Luedtke said. “He was an absolute man child,”
Burt was hardly the only reserve to come through in a big way for the Bulldogs.
Fellow senior Kaven Noctor, who was just a practice player until he suited up for the first time last week, scored eight points, including three free throws down the stretch.
Noctor, who didn’t even make the trip to Kalispell when the Bulldogs beat the Braves on a Jake Olson buzzer beater four weeks ago, also hit a 3-pointer.
Noctor’s name wasn’t even on the roster. After he scored five points in the first half, a Flathead assistant rushed to the scorer’s table to find out his name.
“Jonart started calling Kaven Noctor the Dragon,” Luedtke said, referring to assistant coach Chad Jonart. “Dragon, he killed it tonight. He was awesome.”
Sophomores Mikey O’Dell and Kenley Leary also hit 3-poitners off the bench. O’Dell hit two, while Leary sank one.
Olson, a junior, scored 14 of his 16 points in the first half to help the Bulldogs build a 34-25 halftime lead. Fellow junior starter Blake Drakos hit three 3-poitners and scored 10 points.
Senior Andrwe Booth started and scored seven points, while classmate Tommy Mellott added two points. Junior Cael Stenson started and contributed for the Bulldogs, too.
“Every single guy who played tonight did something good,” Luedtke said. “The starters, obviously the bench was huge.
“Mikey O’Dell hit some big threes for us, Burt was awesome, Jake played well. They couldn’t guard him in the first half,” Luedtke continued. “That right there was a frickin’ team effort. That’s what we want see out of the Bulldogs.”
Luedtke couldn’t stop praising his team.
“Leary’s been sick all week,” Luedtke said. “He stepped up and hit a big three and made some good decision. Tommy was awesome.”
The night also included a pretty big switch for the Bulldogs, who moved away from their traditional man-to-man defense. Instead, Butte High played a 2-3 zone.
That is no small move considering Luedtke has long considered himself a “man-to-man guy.”
“The kids had picked up the man principals,” Luedtke said. “I just feel like the 2-3 zone fits a little better what we have right now.”
That zone defense helped Butte High play a bigger lineup against the Braves, who started the night off by putting on a thunderous dunking display in pregame warmups.
“It was a physical, physical game tonight, but I tell you what that size helped us tonight,” Luedtke said. “For the first game playing that 2-3 zone, the boys played awesome.”
Whether it was the zone defense or something else, Burt said the all of the Bulldogs were fired up from the start.
“It was high intensity off the bench,” Burt said. “It’s what we talked about. We’ve got to play as a team.”
The Braves were pretty intense, too. They started the third quarter with a 9-3 run that cut Butte High’s lead to 37-34.
Burt answered with a bucket off a Stenson pass. He then hit two free throws before Stenson stole the ball and fee Booth for a contested, reverse layup.
The teams went back and forth with runs before Butte took a 51-45 lead into the fourth quarter.
Every time the Bulldogs looked to put the game away, the Braves answered.
Booth opened the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer, only to see Gatlin Bruner turn a three-point play. When Drakos sank a 3-pointer with 52 seconds left to make it 61-54, Tannen Beyl followed with a three.
After the Dragon hit 3 of 4 from the free throw line, however, time ran out before the Braves could answer again.
Joston Cripe scored 14 points to lead three Braves in double figures. Gabe Adams cored 13, and Beye tossed in 10.
Flathead also got eight from Cooper Smith, seven from Hunter Hickey, three from Bruner and two from Ethan Vandenbosch.
Butte High will have a short turn around before heading back to the Richardson Gym. The Bulldogs play Kalispell Glacier at 2 p.m. Saturday.
The Bulldogs will celebrate Senior Day, honoring Mellott, Burt, Booth, Noctor and Dillon Ferry and their parents.
KALISPELL FLATHEAD (3-11, 2-8) — Tannen Beyl 4 0-0 10, Hunter Hickey 3 1-3 7, Gabe Adams 5 3-3 13, Cooper Smith 3 0-0 8, Joston Cripe 4 3-5 14, Ethan Vandenbosch 0 2-2 2, Brian Wells 1 1-1 3, Gatlin Bruner 1 1-1 3, Ezra Epperly 0 0-0 0, Max Anderson 0 0-0 0. Totals 20 10-14 57.
BUTTE HIGH (5-10, 4-7) — Blake Drakos 3 1-2 10, Tommy Mellott 1 0-0 2, Cael Stenson 0 0-0 0, Andrew Booth 3 0-0 7, Jake Olson 8 0-0 16, Mike O’Dell 2 0-0 6, Ryan Burt 5 2-2 12, Kaven Noctor 2 3-4 8, Kenley Leary 1 0-0 3. Totals 25 6-8 64.
Flathead 13 12 20 12 — 57
Butte 18 16 17 13 — 64
3-point goals — Flathead 7 (Cripe 3, Beyl 2, Smith 2), Butte 8 (Drakos 3, O’Dell 2, Leary, Booth, Noctory). Fouls — Flathead 12, Butte 16. Fouled out — none.