Bulldog boys ground Eagles in home-opening victory

Bulldog boys ground Eagles in home-opening victory
Butte High senior Danny McCloskey battles for the ball between Missoula Big Sky's Everett Fred, left, and Mason Van Vallis Tuesday night at the Butte Civic Center. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

Presto … Change-o, and for their next trick — the Butte High Bulldogs will change their emotions like with a flip of the switch.

Don’t be surprised when it happens. Head coach Luke Powers is confident in the Butte High boys capabilities, especially after a determined effort Tuesday night brought them a 62-52 boys’ basketball win over Missoula Big Sky in the Butte Civic Center.

It began the home portion of the Butte High schedule.

Of course, it might not be every night that Dan McCloskey comes off the bench to microwave a 24-point performance. However, counting on mixing the other ingredients in the win for seconds would seem a distinct possibility.

“That 10-point win, 11-point win or whatever it was, they played hard and we’re motivated,” Powers said after the Class AA non-conference basketball win in the Butte Civic Center. “But, we have to bring all that intensity we have on defense down and settle in on offense.”

The scientific formula, made as it may wound, is to drain the emotional reserves pressuring the opposition on defense until possession of the ball is gained. Then, it’s about finesse as the Bulldogs coolly execute, the coach said.

“You pressure on defense to get turnovers and easy baskets,” he said, “but, sometimes, you press on defense just to make your opponent play uncomfortably.”

The final score barked success, and other positives included a 33-30 rebounding advantage, and a turnovers margin that favored Butte High by seven.

There was also the 36-percent shooting effort in what seems so often be a tough building to drop baskets. While preserving the win in the fourth quarter, the Bulldogs didn’t even try to shoot from the field. They salted away the victory, though, by converting 15 of 23 free throws tried in the period.

Powers said various combinations will be in use for Butte High this season as it progresses to being a “great team,” he said.

“It’s the style we always wanted to play, but never had the depth until this year,” he said.

The coach lauded the all-around play of senior leader Kash Kelly, a fourth-year varsity player. Kelly had 12 points and a team-high seven rebounds, along with five assists and four steals.

“He’s our leader on and off the court,” Powers said, “by example and he’s our vocal leader, too.”

Powers noted that 6-foot-6 sophomore post Jake Olson responded to his first Civic Center varsity start with three quick offensive rebounds in the first quarter, filling his coach’s order. Senior Clay Ferguson was defended well by Big Sky, but contributed as a passer and a defender to augment his nine points.

The Bulldogs were a good passing team Tuesday night with Kale McCarthy moving the ball on the inside, and Trevyn Roth and Tommy Mellott both playing well on defense. Roth also netted nine points.

“As a group, we have that balance,” Powers said. “We just can’t let that defensive intensity carry into our offense. We need more finesse on offense.”

Big Sky led only once — when Camdyn LaRance scored off an assist by Brady Tabish for a 2-0 lead 5 seconds after game launch. Mellott tied the score with a drive to the hoop, then, after Butte High reclaimed possession, Kelly fed inside to Olson for a bucket and the Bulldogs led the rest of the way.

The difference was 10-6 after one quarter and grew to 30-23 by halftime. McCloskey scored 12 of his points in the second frame, all in a personal run between a basket by Ferguson and a 3-point goal by Kelly.

LaRance scored 20 points while keeping the Eagles in the game and Tabish battled the Bulldogs on the boards for a game-high 13 rebounds over the course of the contest. Daniel Morin wound up with 12 points. Big Sky was unable to catch up and the margin stayed around 10 points through the second half.

The win squared Butte High’s season record at 1-1. The Bulldogs play on December 18 when they play host to Helena Capital in the Civic Center. Big Sky is now 1-2.

MISSOULA BIG SKY (1-2) — Camdyn LaRance 8-12 2-5 20, Daniel Morin 5-10 0-0 12, Brady Tabish 1-7 0-0 2, Dylan Sandry 1-1 0-0 2, Everett Fred 1-1 0-2 2, Andrew Gardanier 4-8 0-0 8, Billon Broere 1-3 0-0 2, Gabe Bailey 1-3 1-2 4, Caleb Boone 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 22-46 3-4 52.
BUTTE HIGH (1-1) — Kash Kelly 4-5 1-4 12, Tommy Mellott 1-3 3-7 5, Clay Ferguson 2-8 4-6 9, Trevyn Roth 3-9 0-0 9, Jake Olson 1-5 0-0 2, Kale McCarthy 0-5 1-2 1, Dan McCloskey 5-9 12-15 24, Jake Vetter 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 16-44 21-34 62.
Big Sky                       6          17        10        19 — 52
Butte High                 10        20        17        15 — 62

3-point goals — Big Sky 5-11 (LaRance 2-5, Morin 2-4, Tabish 0-1, Bailey 1-1), Butte 9-19 (Kelly 3-3, Ferguson 1-3, Roth 3-8, McCarthy 0-2, McCloskey 2-3). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Big Sky 24, Butte 12. Technical fouls — none. Rebounds — Big Sky 30 (Tabish 13), Butte 33 (Kelly 7). Blocks — Big Sky 3 (Tabish 1, Fred 1, Broere 1), Butte 0. Assists — Big Sky 9 (Morin 4), Butte 13 (Kelly 5, McCarthy 5). Steals — Big Sky 5 (Morin 2), Butte 13 (Kelly 4, Olson 3, McCarthy 2, McCloskey 2). Turnovers — Big Sky 19, Butte 12.

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