By Bruce Sayler
The Butte High boys’ basketball team is seeking a fifth straight trip to the state Class AA tournament under head coach Matt Luedtke this season. The coach and the team all have an eye on the Saturday night of the tourney as an aspiration, Luedtke said.
“We went two-and-barbecue last year,” he said. “We’ve been fortunate to get into the state tournament four years in a row. And, we’re really hoping to get there this year and get a win in the first round.”
The quest begins on Friday when the Bulldogs will be in Bozeman to open their season in a 7 p.m. tip-off against Bozeman High, the reigning state Class AA football champion, and a recent heavy lifter in basketball as well.
It will be the second half of a doubleheader to be launched by the girls’ teams from both schools meeting in their 5:30 p.m. opener.
“I think we’re looking pretty good, the way things have gone in practice,” Luedtke said. “It would be nice to have a little easier game for the first game, but we want to play good teams. They’re obviously going to be good. They beat us last year in the State Tournament and they have good players coming off that football team.
“We’re excited about the game. We had six practices last week and will have four this week before we play and I don’t know now what we have to work on until we play one.”
He said the Bulldogs will undergo early testing as the season begins.
“I like having a tough preseason,” the coach said. “After Bozeman, we have Belgrade, Dillon and Butte Central. Belgrade is said to be much-improved, Dillon is always and good an Butte Central, too.
“Our boys have been going really hard in practice and I think it’s going to be a really fun year.”
Luedtke spoke with that much optimism, yet having graduated four starters off of last year’s unit. The returnee, though, is 6-foot-1 sophomore Hudson Luedtke, son of the coach, leading scorer last year and an All-State player.
Still, a lot of experience will surround him.
“Hudson is pretty good,” Matt Luedtke said. “And, we have a lot of guys with varsity experience. It hurts losing those four starters, but we have a lot of guys excited about their opportunity and have put a lot of time into the season.”
Coach Luedtke said he has tabbed his starters as 5-8 junior Tocher Lee, junior Dylan “Bobby” Bache, 6-3 senior Rueso Battermann and 6-5 senior Bo Demarais to go with Hudson Luedtke. All have seen quite a bit of varsity experience in the previous two years. Demarais performed in a starting role two years ago and was the sixth man last season.
Top backups include 5-11 junior Torre Tempel, senior Tyson Zeren, Trey McCarthy, Spencer Callahan and 5-9 junior Colton Shea, who have also seen varsity time.
“They’re all good kids and they’re working their butts off,” coach Luedtke said. “The program is getting better and better. Who is playing better, shooting better will determine a lot in who is playing.
“We’re going to get up and down the court, and put on a lot of pressure on defense. We have a lot of players who fit the style I like to coach.”
Luedtke’s staff consists of Shawn Wetzel and John Magnus working with the varsity, Jordan Clary coaching the junior varsity, Jacob Parish in charge of the sophomores, and Paul McCarthy and Dalton Bragg coaching the freshman teams.
“I’m really happy about the staff this year,” Luedtke said. “They’re great guys and great coaches.”
The Bulldogs will hold their home opener on December 15 in the Civic Center.
“We’re excited about our season,” he said. “We hope to stay healthy for the season and make some baskets.
“Most of our home games are in the Civic Center. We hope the people of Butte will come and fill that Civic Center. I love the Ross Richardson (Butte High gym), but the Civic Center is fun when it is packed. That will be fun to watch.”