Bulldogs work overtime for Senior Night win

Bulldogs work overtime for Senior Night win
Butte High's Jake Olson goes up for a shot as Helena High's Kaden Huot defends Tuesday night at the Richardson Gym. (Bill Foley photo)

Butte has three-game win streak for first time since 2012

By Bill Foley

It has been a while since Butte High’s boys’ basketball felt this good.

To be exact, it has been nine years and two weeks.

The Bulldogs overcame an 11-point deficit Tuesday night to beat Helena High 59-50 in a Western AA overtime battle at the Richardson Gym. The win was the third straight for the Bulldogs, who rolled their record to 6-4.

“Three wins in a row,” Butte High senior post Jake Olson said. “That’s big time.”

The last time the Bulldogs won their third-straight game came when Butte High knocked off Bozeman 49-39 Feb. 2, 2012 in Butte. That victory followed wins over the Great Falls schools.

Tuesday’s win, which followed victories over the Kalispell schools last Thursday and Saturday, was much more different than expected over a team that fell to 0-10.

Butte High beat the Bengals 62-39 Jan. 9 in Helena.

Billy “The Kid” Kelly scored nine of his 16 points in overtime as the Bulldogs outscored Helena 14-5 in the extra 4 minutes. The game was tied at 45 at the end of regulation. Kelly shot 7 for 7 from the free throw line in overtime.

“Billy Kelly is a man among boys out there, and Jake comes ready to play,” Butte High coach Matt Luedtke said. “Billy is a closer. He made his free throws down the stretch.”

Olson, who scored 16 of his team-leading 21 points after halftime, said the Bulldogs likely took the Bengals too lightly.

“I think because of how we played them last time, we came out with the mindset it was going to be the exact same type of game,” Olson said. “They came to play. They worked their ass off the entire game. In the first half, we didn’t have the same intensity.”

The Bengals also came out shooting.

Sam Norum hit a baseline jump shot to open the game and give the Bengals a lead they would keep until the fourth quarter. Junior guard Kaden Huot followed a 3-pointer and the Bengals opened the game with a 14-3 run.

A pair of 3-pointers by sophomore reserve Colter Petre capped that run.

“That really got them going,” Olson said of Petre’s threes. “They didn’t shoot too good when we were playing them at home, so no one expected them to shoot the ball.”

Capital led 14-6 at the end of the first quarter.

“That’s just unacceptable,” Luedtke said. “We’re much better than that offensively.”

Senior Cael Stenson hit four free throws and then drove and scored on a spin move to spark a 13-6 run to close the first half, pulling the Bulldogs to within 23-21.

Butte High, which rolled in the second half at Saturday’s win at Flathead, did not take off in the third quarter, though.

Huot, who sank five 3-pointers and scored a game-high 22 points, hit a 3-pointer as Helena opened the lead to 30-23 midway through the third quarter.

“Huot definitely came to play,” Olson said.

Olson answered by turning a three-point play. Senior Blake Drakos sank a 3-pointer from the corner to cut the lead to 34-31 after three quarters.

Kelly sank a three 28 seconds into the fourth quarter to tie the game for the first time since Norum’s jumper 34 seconds into the first. Olson followed with a bucket for the 36-34 lead after the teams played scoreless form more than two and a half minutes.

Huout hit another three before Olson scored back-to-back buckets and Kelly scored to run the lead to 42-37. Butte led 44-39 after a post move by Olson with 1 minute, 15 seconds left on the clock.

Burgin Luker sank a 3-pointer, and the teams exchanged free throws before Luker hit a running shot in the key to tie the game at 45 with 16 seconds left to send the game to overtime.

Butte High did not trail in the extra frame. Olson hit a free throw before Kelly turned a 3-potin play. The Bulldogs then iced the win with 10 straight free throws. Six of those came from Kelly. Drakos and Mikey O’Dell each hit two.

Stenson scored six of his seven points to help the Bulldogs claw back into the game. Drakos finished with six, O’Dell scored four, Kooper “Jackie Moon” Klobucar tossed in three, and Kenley Leary scored two.

Senior Zach Merrifield started and contributed in the win. Cameron Gurnsey saw time in a pair of quarters.

Luker scored 11 points for the Bengals. Petre finished with the six, Norum scored four, Dylan Christman tossed in three, and Austin Zeiler and Kade Schlepp each scored two.

The 6-foot-10 Norum also battled with the 6-8 Olson inside, when he wasn’t on the bench in foul trouble. Norum, Luker and Hout fouled out for the Bengals, who sent the Bulldogs to the free throw line 29 times.

Butte High hit 23 of those free tosses. Helena shot 7 for 10 from the stripe.

While he was disappointed with his offense early, Luedtke praised his team’s defense.

“That’s what won us the game,” Luedtke said. “We had some guys step up and make plays.”

Olson said the Bulldogs have to start putting together a full game.

“We did the same thing against Flathead,” he said. “We came out and were just not as aggressive. Then in the second half, we just show up with that intensity. We’ve just got to do that all night and crush teams.”

Luedtke pointed to the play of Olson, who was a force on the boards all night.

“He usually comes ready to go,” the coach said. “He wasn’t great in the first half offensively, but in the second half he really came ready to play. He’s kind of our spark plug.”

Before the game, the Bulldogs honored Drakos, Merrifield, Stenson and Olson and their parents as part of the Senior Night ceremonies. Olson said that did not play a role in Butte High’s slow start.

“I think it’s more special for the parents,” Olson said. “It’s just a normal game. The coach says, ‘No tears on Senior Night. You’ve just got to treat it like another game.’ We’ve still got games left.”

Butte High will head to Missoula for a rematch with defending state champion Missoula Hellgate. The Knights beat Butte High 66-65 on an overtime buzzer-beater Jan. 22 in Butte.

A fourth-straight win would have the Bulldogs flying high as we enter crunch time of the season.

“Three in a row,” Luedtke said. “My first three-game winning streak since I was the head coach. Hopefully we can keep it rolling.”

HELENA HIGH (0-10) — Burgin Luker 4 1-3 11, Austin Zeiler 2 0-0 2, Kade Schlepp 1 0-0 2, Kaden Huot 7 3-4 22, Sam Norum 1 2-2 4, Logan Schwenk 0 0-0 0, Catrell Franko 0 0-0 0, Evan Barber 0 0-0 0, Colter Petre 2 0-0 6, Cael Murgel 0 0-0 0, Payton Tavary 0 0-0 0, Dylan Christman 1 1-1 3. Totals 17 7-10 50.
BUTTE HIGH (6-4) — Kenley Leary 1 0-0 2, Mikey O’Dell 1 2-2 4, Zach Merrifield 0 0-0 0, Kooper Klobucar 1 1-2 3, Jake Olson 8 5-7 21, Billy Kelly 4 7-7 16, Cael Stenson 1 5-7 7, Blake Drakos 1 3-4 6, Cameron Gurnsey 0 0-0 0. Totals 17 23-29 59.
Helena             14          9        11        11          5 — 50
Butte                 6        15        10        14        14 — 59

3-point goals — Helena 9 (Huot 5, Luker 2, Petre 2), Butte 2 (Kelly, Drakos). Fouls — Helena 25, Butte 14. Fouled out — Luker, Norum, Huot. Technicals — none.



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