Knights lance Bulldogs with defense and long ball

By Bruce Sayler
Missoula Hellgate entered the Butte Civic Center with sizzling shooting hands, and a defense that pushed Butte High’s shooters almost to the parking lot.
So, Hellgate won. The Knights downed Butte High 56-43 Thursday night as both squads opened the Western AA Conference portion of the high school boys’ basketball season.
Hellgate drained five 3-point baskets in seven first-quarter attempts and held a 17-9 lead at the first break.
The Knights, the reigning Class AA state champions, are in a rebuilding mode as well, with Luke Hoppe being the only senior on the roster. Their only blip this campaign has been a 63-62 overtime loss to Billings West in a 4-1 start to the season.
Their 2-3 zone defense clogged the middle, forcing Butte High to launch moon shots from beyond the perimeter. The Bulldogs were capable, but not quite up to the on this particular night.
Still, after falling behind by 20 points twice – 37-17 and 45-25 – Butte High found itself back in the game with a surge in the fourth quarter.
A 16-4 Bulldog run to begin the final period cut the difference to six points twice, but no closer.
“Our guys weren’t aggressive tonight,” Butte High head coach Matt Luedtke said. “With Hellgate, it was the same-old, same old. They are a good team and, yes, they play great defense. We’ve never beaten them since I’ve been here (four-plus years).
“We just weren’t aggressive. It’s easy to play great defense when you’re playing against a bunch of guys afraid to score.”
The coach said he was hoping for a better effort, but not all he saw was bad. Butte High has had to replace four graduated starters in forming this year’s lineup.
“I’m disappointed with our performance,” he said. “But, in the fourth quarter, we cut our 20-point deficit to six. We have to play more aggressively consistently and I think it will be different when we play them the next time.”
Butte High’s only lead was 2-0 on Rueso Batterman’s rebound put-back almost a minute into the game. Hellgate got consecutive 3-pointers from Hoppe and Zane Gillhouse, and had a 6-2 advantage. Tocher Lee connected from 3-point range for the Bulldogs, cutting the margin to a point. The Knights answered with another 3-ball from Gillhouse. Battermann knocked down a turnaround jumper, but Hellgate outscored Butte High 8-2 the rest of the frame, including a pair of 3-pointers by Spencer Wayland.
“They were 5-of-6 on 3s in the first period,” Luedtke said. “That’s their championship mettle. Their guys are ready to play.”
Hellgate methodically built on the margin and held a 30-17 bulge at halftime. The Knights then canned the first seven points of the second half, touches from four different players, and had their first 20-point command.
Dylan “Bobby” Bache cut four points off it with a rebound bucket and two free throws for Butte High. Bulldog Bo Demarais followed with an inside shot. However, Wayland drilled another trey and so did Gillhouse. Butte-rooted Hellgate sophomore Vinny Paffhausen spun inside for a pullup and the quarter closed with the Knights owning a 45-27 advantage. As the run was finishing, 6-foot-6 freshman Braylon Larson came off the Bulldog bench and tallied his team’s last four points of the third quarter.
Larson and junior Colton Shea sparked the late Butte High comeback. Larson took a pass from Shea for a 15-foot jumper and then fed Shea twice on kickouts for 3-pointers. The Bulldogs were outscoring the Knights 14-2 the first half of the fourth quarter. Battermann scored twice in the surge and Hudson Luedtke had the other two points, taking in a pass from Shea.
The eruption trimmed Hellgate’s lead to 47-41. Chance McNulty drove the hoop for two to restart Hellgate, but Battermann sank a jumper from just inside the 3-line in retaliation.
Butte High, though, didn’t score again. The Knights used the 49-43 difference as a launching pad finished the game on a 12-0 run, getting contributions from McNulty, Colter Russell and Easton Sant. The team was 5-for-6 from the free throw line in the final minute-and-a-half.
“We had a few moments,” coach Luedtke conceded. “We had guys come off the bench and give us bright spots. We did some things well. I’m hoping we’ll come back from this loss on Saturday against Sentinel.
Sant, a 5-11 junior, finished with 12 points, five assists and three steals to lead Hellgate. Gilhouse, a 6-4 sophomore, and McNulty, a 6-0 junior, scored 10 points each. Russell, a 6-2 junior, worked over the boards and pulled down a dozen rebounds.
Battermann, with 10 points, was Butte High’s leading scorer. Luedtke had seven rebounds and seven points. Larson and Shea finished with six points each, Lee and Bache tallied five apiece and Demarais scored four. Torre Tempel, Tyson Zeren, Spencer Callaghan and Trey McCarthy also played.
The Bulldogs are 2-3 for the season and are to play Missoula Sentinel on Saturday at 4 p.m. in Missoula for another Western AA Conference game.
MISSOULA HELLGATE (4-1, 1-0) – Easton Sant 4-5 3-4 12, Colter Russell 2-9 0-0 4, Zane Gillhouse 3-8 1-2 10, Brody Schneider 1-1 0-0 2, Luke Hoppe 3-3 0-0 7, Chase McNulty 3-8 4-4 10, Jacob Finch 0-0 0-0 0, Parker Link 0-2 0-0 0, Spencer Wayland 3-8 0-0 9, Rylan Davis 0-0 0-0 0, Vinny Paffhausen 1-1 0-0 2, Evan Pyron 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 20-45 8-10 56.
BUTTE HIGH (2-3, 0-1) — Tocher Lee 1-3 2-2 5, Bo Demarais 2-3 0-2 4, Dylan Bache 1-6 3-4 5, Hudson Luedtke 2-9 3-4 7, Rueso Battermann 5-11 0-0 10, Torre Tempel 0-2 0-0 0, Tyson Zeren 0-1 0-0 0, Braylon Larson 2-3 2-2 6, Spencer Callaghan 0-0 0-0 0, Trey McCarthy 0-0 0-0 0, Colton Shea 2-3 0-0 6. Totals 15-41 10-14 43.
Hellgate 17 13 15 11 – 56
Butte High 9 8 10 16 – 43
3-point goals – Hellgate 8-19 (Sant 1-2, Gillhouse 3-6, Hoppe 1-1, McNulty 0-2, Link 0-2, Wayland 3-6), Butte High 3-13 (Lee 1-1, Bache 0-3, Luedtke 0-1, Battermann 0-4, Tempel 0-1, Shea 2-3). Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Hellgate 17, Butte High 15. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Hellgate 33 (Russell 12), Butte High 27 (Luedtke 7). Blocks – Hellgate none, Butte High 1 (Larson). Assists – Hellgate 13 (Sant 5), Butte High 13 (Bache 3, Luedtke 3). Steals – Hellgate 8 (Sant 3), Butte High 9 (Lee 2, Luedtke 2, Shea 2). Turnovers – Hellgate 13, Butte High 14.