Falcons run past Bulldogs in tourney opener

Falcons run past Bulldogs in tourney opener
Cale Stenson of Butte High gets off a pass as Billings Skyview's Brooks Nelson defends Wednesday at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls. (Photo by Carrie Casagranda Leary, for Butte Sports)

GREAT FALLS — The night started off well for the Butte High boys’ basketball team.

Senior guard Billy Kelly drove to the hoop, drew a foul and hit a pair of free throws to give the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.

That, however, was the end of the good news for the Bulldogs.

Ky Kouba followed with the first of his four first quarter 3-poitners to put the Falcons up for good. Skyview led 21-4, and the Falcons rolled to the semifinals with an 81-58 victory over the Bulldogs in the Class AA State tournament at the Four Seasons Arena. (Stats)

Butte High (8-8) will take on Billings Senior (9-7) in a 3:30 p.m. loser-out game Thursday. Skyview (13-3) will take on Missoula Sentinel (15-1) in Thursday’s 7:30 p.m. semifinal.

Helena Capital (9-6) and Great Falls High (15-1) will meet in the 5:30 semifinal. (Bracket)

Kouba was one of four Falcons to score in double figures. Cameron Ketchum led the way with 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Payton Sanders added 19 points. Kouba scored 15, and Abe Seybert tossed in 11.

In all, the Falcons connected 12 times from 3-point land. None were more damaging than Kouba’s in the first.

“We did a really poor job covering those threes,” Butte coach Matt Luedtke said. “Ky came out and I think he hit four threes in the first quarter, all uncontested. Unfortunately, we did not do a good enough job as a coaching staff helping the guys understand that’s not the guy we want to shoot the basketball.”

The Falcons led 23-7 after the first quarter and took a 39-24 advantage into the second half. Butte High cut a 20-point lead to 11 points, but Skyview opened it back up.

Kelly finished with 17 points to lead the Bulldogs. Fellow senior Jake Olson added 11 points and seven rebounds, while seniors Cael Stenson and Zach Merrifield each scored nine. Merrifield did his damage on 3-for-6 shooting from 3-point range. Stenson joined Olson with seven boards.

Mikey Odell scored five points for the Bulldogs, who got three from Kooper Klobucar and two apiece from Jace Stenson and Cameron Gurnsey. Kenley Leary, Blake Drakos, Jonas Sherman, Kale McDonald also contributed for the Bulldogs, who will now set their sights on third place.

Butte High will need to win Thursday and again at 1 p.m. Friday to qualify for Saturday’s 1 p.m. consolation game. Luedtke said that is the plan.

“The big thing for us right now is we’ve got to bounce back,” Luedtke said. “Two teams get to end on wins. I talked to the boys. The season’s not over. We can’t hang our heads. We’ve got to try to get that win tomorrow so we can get that consolation game.”

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