Bulldogs hold off Spartans for Senior Night victory

By Bruce Sayler 

 If the Butte High boys’ basketball game had been played outside, there would have been fireworks, too. 

The 65-60 Western AA Conference Friday night victory over Missoula Sentinel in Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym came complete with a spectacular dunk and awesome-length 3-pointers to please a larger than usual crowd. 

It also came on Senior Night when the two Bulldog senior players, Kooper Klobucar and Kenley Leary, were honored with their families before tip-off along with seniors from other Butte High extracurriculars. 

Klobucar took the gift of victory, personally, even with his 12 points, block and three rebounds accounting for important contributions from himself. 

“it felt amazing to win this game,” the 6-foot-6 hefty post player said. “We played hard the first quarter, second, third … and everyone played hard for us seniors.” 

The Bulldogs denied a takeover this night, staying away from some old scenarios of them giving up sizeable and late leads. 

They owned a 47-34 cushion at halftime after a high-flying steal-and-dunk play Cameron Gurnsey, who is accused of standing 6-foot-1 on the roster, swiped the ball at midcourt. The highlight finished at the buzzer, show-biz style. 

The Bulldogs led 26-19 at halftime. 

“It was unexpected, but he totally went for it,” head coach Matt Luedtke said with a smile. “It blew the roof off the place. He’s had a few this year, but not any totally like that one. 

“We came out good in the third quarter and that had a lot to do with the dunk,” 

However, Sentinel weathered the storm and outscored the home team 10-5 almost midway through the third quarter. The rally cut the deficit to 31-29 with Riley Allen scoring six points in the surge.  

Leary started firing away for Butte High and drained three 3-pointers in the quarter, the closest from almost across the street, and the Bulldogs held a 42-34 margin going into the fourth. 

Sentinel bounced back and used an 18-6 run to draw within 53-52 of the Bulldogs. Butte High’s Jonas Sherman and Spartan Joe Weida exchanged baskets before Sentinel went ahead for the first time in the game. Trevor Rausch sank two free throws with for a 56-55 Spartan edge with 2 minutes, 10 seconds left in the contest. 

Gurnsey was fierce down the stretch. He was fouled at 1:52 and caged two foul shots to return the edge to Butte High, 57-56. A short flurry of fouls and turnovers finally went the Bulldogs’ favor when Sentinel sharpshooter Kaden Sheridan fouled out on a charging call. 

Allen then fouled Gurnsey, and he made two more charity tosses. Gurnsey ended up going eight-for-eight on fourth-quarter freebies as Butte High wrapped up the win. 

He also stole a save by Weida for a Bulldog possession in the waning seconds, the possession ending in freshman Tocher Lee’s two made free throws with 26 seconds on the clock. 

Sentinel rebound baskets by Allen and Clay Godwin in the closing seconds ate too many seconds and Gurnsey hooped his last two foul shots. 

“Finally, we beat somebody at the free throw line,” Luedtke said. “It’s a win. 

“We’re resilient and we stepped up. Gurnsey was outstanding. Leary, when he’s not making too many fouls, can just play great. Kooper and everybody contributed. “ 

Leary led the team with 20 points while Gurnsey notched 14 and Klobucar 12. The team denied defeat this time. 

“I just thought we all played together as a team,” Klobucar said. “We found the open guys and we didn’t make the dumb turnovers and mistakes, tonight. We pulled through.” 

The win gave Butte High a season sweep of Sentinel. Luedtke and Klobucar both mentioned the contributors were many in this successful outcome. 

“Jonas had his other best game of the season against Sentinel earlier,” Luedtke said, after the 6-2 junior had come off the bench to register five points and six rebounds. “He was strong in the middle, awesome, with some nice picks, a couple of timely layups and offensive rebounds. 

“We wanted to win this for the two seniors and that was for sure.” 

Luedtke had alluded last week to the Bulldogs not coming out of the locker room in ready-to-play mode too often this season. Friday night, they scored the first six points of the game on shots by Leary, Jace Stenson and Gurnsey on the way to a 10-4 initial run and a 14-10 first-quarter edge. 

They still struggled some just after halftime, but closed the third frame on an 11-0 run keyed by Leary’s barrage. The Bulldogs were then able to fight off Sentinel’s 26-point fourth quarter. 

Stenson joined Sherman with five points and led the team in rebounds with nine, tying Allen for game-high. Bo Demarais scored four points, Lee finished with three and Rueso Batterman tallied two. Gurnsey had eight assists and two steals to go with his 14 points. Stenson  

Butte High has a 4-12 record, 4-8 in conference, going into its regular-season finale versus Helena High next Thursday at home. 

“We get a whole week, which is nice, to practice before Helena,” Luedtke said, acknowledging that this win over Sentinel also came after a week of practice. “It was nice to get the week, but this week, Koop and Kenley were both sick and were only able to practice one day.” 

They seemed over it Friday night. 

Sentinel, 5-7 in Western AA and 6-9 this season, was led by Allen with 20 points and Sheridan with 15. Allen, a 6-2 sophomore, was the team’s only non-senior starter. Seven seniors are on the Spartans’ roster. 

MISSOULA SENTINEL (6-9, 5-7) — Kaden Sheridan 4-9 4-5 15, Drew Klumph 1-6 2-5 4, Riley Allen 8-14 3-5 20, Joe Weida 2-5 3-4 7, Chase Williams 0-0 1-2 1, Trevor Rausch 1-4 2-2 4, Clay Godwin 2-4 0-0 5, Peyton Stevens 2-2 0-0 4, Brady Rupert 0-1 0-0 0, Colton Crass 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 15-23 60.
BUTTE HIGH (4-12, 4-8) — Jace Stenson 2-10 1-2 5, Cameron Gurnsey 3-8 8-10 14, Kenley Leary 7-14 2-2 20, Bo Demarais 1-2 1-2 4, Kooper Klobucar 6-8 0-1 12, Jonas Sherman 2-4 1-2 5, Tocher Lee 0-4 3-4 3, Rueso Batterman 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 22-52 16-23 65.
Sentinel                      10           9       15        26 — 60 
Butte High                 14        12        21        18 — 65
3-point goals – Sentinel 5-18 (Sheridan 3-6, Klumph 0-5, Allen 1-2, Weida 0-1, Rausch 0-1, Godwin 1-2, Rupert 0-1), Butte High 5-20 (Stenson 0-4, Gurnsey 0-2, Leary 4-9, Demarais 1-2, Klobucar 0-1, Lee 0-1, Batterman 0-1). Fouled out – Sheridan. Total fouls – Sentinel 23, Butte High 25. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Sentinel 36 (Allen 9), Butte High 34 (Stenson 9, Sherman 6). Blocks – Sentinel 1 (Weida), Butte High 3 (Stenson 1, Klobucar 1, Batterman 1). Assists – Sentinel 10 (Klumph 6), Butte High 15 (Gurnsey 8, Leary 4). Steals – Sentinel 3 (Klumph 1, Sheridan 1, Weida 1), Butte High 6 (Stenson 2, Gurnsey 1). Turnovers – Sentinel 20, Butte High 12.