Gallatin bounces Butte High with red-hot fourth

By Bruce Sayler

Hard play wasn’t enough for Butte High Friday. The Bulldogs’ long, determined rally lay in the ashes of on-fire shooting from Gallatin stars Eli Hunter and Zad Rodarte in a burned-out 85-77 final score.
Hunter scored 15 points in the fourth quarter while finishing with 31 for the game, a loser-out in the state Class AA high school boys’ basketball tournament being played through Saturday evening in the Butte Civic Center. His performance wiped out a 58-51 third-quarter lead Butte High had gained after trailing the Raptors all through the first half.
The new Bozeman school then poured in 34 points in the final frame, zipping past the tiring Bulldogs to stay alive for a possible third place in the tournament.
Freshman Hudson Luedtke’s jumper from inside the 3-point arc increased the Butte High advantage to nine points before Gallatin roared back ahead with a 20-12 run. The lead switch came during a stretch of free throw struggles the Bulldogs suffered and on a 9-2 Raptor burst during their telling run. Hunter’s 10-foot bank shot on a pullup pushed his team ahead, 71-70, with 2 minutes, 40 seconds left in the game.
Gallatin went 9-for-12 from the foul line the rest of the way to sew up the win and end Butte High’s 12-12 season. The teams had begun the season against each other with a non-conference clash in Bozeman, won by Gallatin 67-59.
“It was just a great game,” Butte High head coach Matt Luedtke, father of the Bulldog freshman star, said. “Both teams were fighting for their lives, what you’d expect in a morning loser-out game. This is one of the best state tournaments I’ve been to. Everyone here has had a good shot to win it.
“I’m proud of our guys. They made it great and I’m sad to see the seniors go. They were freshmen when I got here (after a two-time state Class B championship stint in Choteau). So, it’s kind of a sad day.”
Rodarte scored the first six of his 20 points on back-to-back 3-point shots while Gallatin grabbed a 6-2 lead. Butte High stormed back with an 8-0 run as Jace Stenson and Luedtke wrapped a charity toss apiece around a 12-foot jumper by Cameron Gurnsey. Freshman Cayde Stajcar stuck in a rebound to cap the run.
The Raptors, though, bounced right back with their own 8-0 surge, Hunter tallying the first five points in it and Garrett Dahlke finishing it with a basket-and-one play. At quarter’s end. Gallatin led 18-14.
Gurnsey retied the score with a four-point play, three-point basket and free throw, at the start of the second period. Two Kale Fasting baskets for Gallatin were blunted by a free throw and 3-pointer by Gurnsey and the score was knotted at 22-all. The Raptors rebuilt their lead to 28-23 only to have the Bulldogs respond with a 6-0 run for a 29-28 edge. Dylan “Bobby” Bache suffered an undisclosed leg injury while scoring on a drive to the basket that launched the run. He did not return to the game. Stenson polished off the surge with two buckets.
A Dahlke 3-pointer off a Fasting pass lifted the Raptors back ahead and they maintained it for a 35-31 halftime edge.
“Last night (a 77-63 first-round loss to Bozeman High), we ran out of gas and I think that kind of happened to us again today,” coach Luedtke said.
A rousing third quarter by Butte High might have been what emptied the Bulldogs’ tanks. They outscored the Raptors 27-16 in the period and grabbed the 58-51 advantage.
Stenson ignited the offense with a 3-pointer from a Luedtke pass 35 seconds into the half. Logan Springer scored a pullup jumper for Gallatin and then the Bulldogs charred the hoops for 10 straight unanswered points and a 41-37 advantage.
Gurnsey broke a 37-all tie by canning a pair of freebies and then knocked down his own putback after a Luedtke steal,
Butte High held the margin before increasing it to 51-44 on a Stenson 3-ball. Gallatin inched back to 51-48 on baskets by Hunter and Grant Vigen, but Stenson hooped a rebound throatugh and Gurnsey executed a fast break on an outlet from Tocher Lee. The spread was 55-48 for Butte High and it was 58-51 going into the last quarter.
“The guys were trying to make some plays,” Matt Luedtke said. “We had some opportunities we didn’t convert. They made some shots we didn’t.
“Hunter was great for them tonight. I thought we did a pretty good job on defense against him, but he’s hard to guard. We got into a little foul trouble.”
Gurnsey had the main duty on the 6-foot-2 senior, but it cost him some foul trouble and he left with his fifth infraction late in the contest after scoring a team-high 26 points.
“The kids worked their asses off,” coach Luedtke said. “The kids never gave up the whole year. Even toward the end today, when it looked like it was getting away from us, Jace came down and hit two 3s in a row.
“We never say die.”
Stenson finished with 24 points and Luedtke with 19 to back Gurnsey in the totals. Four other Bulldogs — Jonas Sherman, Bache, Stajcar and Bo Demarais – tallied two each to complete Butte High’s scoring. Demarais came off the bench to lead on the boards with nine rebounds. Stenson and Gurnsey each pulled down six. Gurnsey had three steals.
Gallatin, now 15-9, will play a 9 a.m. loser-out game on Saturday against the loser of Friday night’s Billings West-Kalispell Glacier semifinals with a chance to advance to the third-place game at 3:30, Saturday.
The Raptors placed four scorers in double figures against Butte High with Fasting ending with 12 points and Dahlke with 10 behind Hunter’s 31 and Rodarte’s 20. Fasting had 11 rebounds.
GALLATIN (15-9) – Garrett Dahlke 3-4 3-3 10, Eli Hunter 12-24 6-13 31, Logan Springer 1-2 0-0 2, Zad Rodarte 5-10 7-7 20, Jacob Sonju 2-5 0-0 4, Jack Repscher 0-2 0-0 0, Kale Fasting 4-5 4-6 12, Grant Vigen 2-4 2-2 6, Cash Jones 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 29-57 22-31 85.
BUTTE HIGH (12-12) – Jace Stenson 8-16 4-9 24, Cameron Gurnsey 7-12 8-12 26, Jonas Sherman 1-2 0-1 2, Casey Merrifield 0-6 0-0 0, Hudson Luedtke 6-14 7-10 19, Dylan Bache 1-1 0-0 2, Tocher Lee 0-6 0-0 0, Cayde Stajcar 1-3 0-0 2, Bo Demarais 1-3 0-0 2. Totals1 25-63 19-33 77.
Gallatin 18 17 16 34 – 85
Butte High 14 17 27 19 – 77
3-point goals – Gallatin 5-16 (Dahlke 1-2, Hunter 1-3, Rodarte 3-7, Sonju 0-1, Repscher 0-2, Jones 0-1), Butte 8-29 (Stenson 4-10, Gurnsey 4-6, Merrifield 0-5, Luedtke 0-2, Lee 0-5, Stajcar 0-1). Fouled out – Fasting, Gurnsey. Total fouls – Gallatin 22, Butte 24. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Gallatin 44 (Fasting 11), Butte 37 (Demarais 9). Blocks – Gallatin 1 (Sonju), Butte 2 (Gurnsey 1, Demarais 1). Assists – Gallatin 4 (Fasting 2), Butte 4 (Luedtke 2). Steals – Gallatin 4 (Dahlke 1, Hunter 1, Rodarte 1, Repscher 1), Butte 6 (Gurnsey 3, Stenson 1, Merrifield 1, Luedtke 1). Turnovers – Gallatin 16, Butte 12.

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