One week after shocking the state by punching a ticket to the big dance, the Butte High boys’ basketball team is looking to do it again.
The Bulldogs are the unlikely team in the field as the Class AA boys’ basketball tournament opens Thursday at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. (Bracket)
Butte’s 5-16 record sticks out like a sore thumb among an eight team field filled with four 17-win teams — defending champion Billings West, Missoula Hellgate, Kalispell Glacier and Billings Skyview.
Butte High, though, isn’t heading to the Electric City feeling like a Cinderella story. The Bulldogs, a team made up largely of members of the 2012 State champion football team, is heading north on I-15 expecting to win.
“They’re really confident right now,” first-year head coach Terry Hauser said.
Butte High has the right to feel confident as they open the tournament at 10:30 a.m. against Kalispell Glacier. Even in their best years, the Bulldogs didn’t usually win in Bozeman. Last Wednesday, the team went on the road and handily beat their rival to book its trip to state.
Dallas Cook scored 23 points to lead the Bulldogs in that 65-57 win. Cook, a 6-foot-4 junior averaged just under a double-double for the Bulldogs with 14.3 points and 9.2 rebounds per game.
Classmate Peter Granger averages 9.8 points and 5.2 rebounds for the Bulldogs, while junior Cory Farstveet tosses in 6.9 points per game.
Sophomores Brian Smith and Killian O’Leary also had big games for the Bulldogs this season. Senior point guard Zach Bunney runs the show for Butte High, while 6-6 senior Kyle Peterson has been a force off the bench.
Senior Jake Dennehy and his do-it-all style joined the team midway through a season he thought he’d have to miss with a shoulder injury.
Colten Billteen, Sean Doyle, Chanse Kremer, Connor Lee, Chase Blum, Gabe McClafferty, Dalton Daum and Zach Johnson also contributed some for the Bulldogs this season.
Regardless to how the Bulldogs fair at State, the team will be making some history. Thursday will mark the team’s first-ever game against the Wolfpack.
The 17-3 Wolfpack won the Western AA regular season title, and the team rides to town on a six-game winning streak. They outscored their 2012-13 opponents by an average of 15.2 points per game.
Senior Ryan Edwards, the 7-foot younger brother of former Butte High standout Jeff Edwards, averages a team-leading 12.8 points and 7.9 rebounds per game to lead Glacier.
Junior guard Jeff Epperly adds 10.4 points per game for Glacier, whose losses came to Helena Capital (15-6), Hellgate (17-4) and Coeur d’Alene, Idaho.
If Butte High pulls off an upset, the Bulldogs will play Billings West (17-3) or Hellgate at 3:30 p.m. on Friday. A loss would mean a 9 a.m. loser-out contest against the loser of the West-Hellgate game.
As Butte High’s bus pulls out of town, thought, that game isn’t on the team’s mind.
In other first-round games, Helena Capital plays Great Falls High (11-10), which shocked Great Falls Russell in playoff game, at 3:30 p.m. Skyview (17-3) plays Missoula Big Sky (11-10) at 5 p.m.
Click here for a look at rosters and complete stats from each Class AA State team, as compiled by Lowell Peterson.