Bulldogs leash Wolfpack, book trip to State AA

Bulldogs leash Wolfpack, book trip to State AA
Butte High junior Cael Stenson takes to ball to the hoop in between Kalispell Glacier defenders Keifer Spohnhauer, left, and Anthony Heath Saturday morning at the Missoula Hellgate gym. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

MISSOULA — “The Dragon” dragged the Butte High boys’ basketball team into the Class AA state tournament with his Saturday morning performance.

“‘The Dragon,’ was unbelievable,” Matt Luedtke, head coach of the Bulldogs said after a 62-48 win over Kalispell Glacier in the loser-outs. “‘The Dragon’ stepped up and made so many plays for us.”

Kaven Noctor, a 6-foot-5 senior, is “The Dragon” to his coach and to his teammates and on Saturday, in the Hellgate High Gym, he came off the bench to score 11 points, grab three rebounds and dish a beauty of an assist to rescue the team and prolong the Butte High season.

Foul troubles somewhat shackled Jake Olson and Ryan Burt to the bench a little bit and so Noctor saw more duty.

The win, in front of a large and loud Butte contingent of spectators, sent the Bulldogs into the Saturday afternoon third-place game against Missoula Sentinel. It was to be played in Sentinel’s gym, the main venue for the tournament. 

The top four teams advance to next weekend’s state AA tournament in Bozeman, so Hellgate, Helena Capital, Butte High and Sentinel all gained berths.

Butte High held a 22-16 lead at halftime, but the Wolfpack prowled back to within 25-24 in the first three minutes of the third quarter. Drew Engellnt outscored the Bulldogs 5-0 in a spurt with two inside baskets and a free throw.

Butte High answered with two foul shots Kenley Leary made and then two nice plays by Noctor. His first was a layup nicely set up by a pass from Tommy Mellott, Then, Noctor looped a similar pass to hit Cael Stenson on the run for a layup and the Bulldogs had opened a 10-point spread

Noctor is headed to Montana Tech to compete in golf, but his knocking bigger balls down bigger holes put him in the spotlight Saturday morning.

His efforts were part of the adjustments Luedtke needed to make when the outside shots weren’t quite stretching net, and when Engellant induced the post players into too many fouls to stay on the court.

“Everybody made plays,” said Luedtke, now finishing his first season at the Butte High helm with a trip to the state tournament. “When we’re at our best, that happens. The guys came and played the way they’re supposed to play and got the job done.”

Mellott’s work at point guard included six assists to go with his nine points. The Bulldogs committed only five turnovers, but forced the Wolfpack into 15.

Glacier clawed to within four points once more, Engellant scoring on a drive to narrow the Wolfpack deficit to 39-35 with 7 minutes, 2 seconds still to play in the game.

Blake Drakos rebuffed the rally try with a pair of 3-point field goals. Jake Olson maneuvered a basket-and-one between Wolfpack baskets by Weston Price and Jaxson Olsen, then the Bulldogs started mopping up at the charity stripe.

They canned 11 of 14 freebies in the last 4 minutes to ice the win. Mellott was 5-for-7 and Noctor 4-for-4 on free throws in the stretch.

The only Butte High field goal in the last half of the quarter was a Noctor trey.

“It did kind of go according to formula,” Luedtke said. “”Emotionally, we wanted it. The kids wanted it bad.”

“We felt that we had an advantage with (6-8) Jake Olson and (6-7) Ryan Burt down low. But, we took what they gave us. “

Butte High shot to a 5-0 lead to start the game as Drakos buried his first of three treys and Olson scored in the paint. The Butte High lead was 10-7 after one quarter, but Glacier knotted the count at 10-all as Anthony Heath tallied a 3-pointer to start the second period.

Olson wrapped two layups on passes from Mellott and Stenson around a Mellott drive to open a 16-10 gap and the Wolfpack never caught the Bulldogs again.

Olson tied Noctor for team high scoring honors, and Drakos’ 10 points gave Butte High three in double figures. Mellott finished with nine points, Stenson seven, Andrew Booth six, Mikey O’Dell and Leary three each, and Burt had two points. Billy Kelly also played. Butte High will be playing at the state tournament for the first time since 2013, and Luedtke last coached in a state tournament in 2016 when he guided Choteau to the state Class B throne.

Glacier finished a 10-11 season. Engellant scored 19 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. Olsen was next-high in points with eight off the bench. Heath finished with seven.

KALISPELL GLACIER (10-11) — Keifer Spohnhauer 1-10 0-0 3, Weston Price 2-6 0-0 5, Drew Engellant 6-7 7-13 19, Luke Bilau 0-0 0-0 0, Michael Schwarz 2-7 0-0 6, Anthony Heath 2-9 2-2 7, Jaxson Olsen 3-5 2-4 8, J.T. Allen 0-1 0-0 0, Jonah Pate 0-1 0-0 0, Dillon Riffle 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 16-47 11-19 48.
BUTTE HIGH (8-13) — Blake Drakos 3-12 1-2 10, Tommy Mellott 1-3 7-9 9, Cael Stenson 2-5 2-4 7, Andrew Booth 2-6 0-0 6, Jake Olson 5-5 1-2 11, Billy Kelly 0-2 0-0 0, Kaven Noctor 3-4 4-4 11, Ryan Burt 1-3 0-2 2, Mikey O’Dell 1-2 0-0 3, Kenley Leary 0-1 3-4 3. Totals 18-43 18-27 62.
Glacier           7          9          14        18 — 48
Butte               10        12        16        24 — 62

3-point goals — Glacier 5-23 (Spohnhauer 1-8, Price 1-2, Schwarz 2-4, Heath 1-6, Olsen 0-2, Riffle 0-1), Butte 8-25 (Drakos 3-9, Mellott 0-1, Stenson 1-3, Booth 2-6, Kelly 0-2, Noctor 1-1, O’Dell 1-2, Leary 0-1). Fouled out — Schwarz. Total fouls — Glacier 18, Butte 16. Technical — Allen. Rebounds — Glacier 37 (Engellant 12), Butte 26 (Stenson 5). Blocks — Glacier 1 (Olsen), Butte 3 (Stenson 1, Booth 1, Olson 1). Assists — Glacier 4 (Olsen 1, Schwarz 1, Allen 1, Price 1), Butte 15 (Mellott 6, Stenson 3). Steals — Glacier 4 (Heath 1, Schwarz 1, Price 1, Engellant 1), Butte 5 (Stenson 3). Turnovers — Glacier 15, Butte 5.

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