Maroons, Bulldogs renew rivalry after year off

Girls play at 6 p.m. Thursday, boys follow at 7:30

The COVID-19 pandemic did something that World War II could not even do.

It stopped the Butte High Bulldogs and Butte Central Maroons from playing each other in basketball.

The Butte High and Butte Central boys first met on the hardwood in 1916. The two teams did not play in 1917, but met at least once a year every year from 1918 through 2019. The girls’ teams jumped into the rivalry in 1976. (Rivalry history)

The Maroons and Bulldogs last met on Dec. 23, 2019, the earliest in the season the games had been played in decades. When Montana schools decided to play through the pandemic with a last start last season, the Class AA elected to play conference games only.

That meant 2020 passed without the Bulldogs taking on the Maroons for the first time since the year before the Spanish Flu pandemic.

The rivalry will be renewed at long last Thursday when Central and Butte High meet in the Butte Civic Center. Girls tip off varsity action at 6 p.m. The boys follow at 7:30.

The boys’ junior varsity game is set for 4:15 p.m. The other subvarsity games were played Monday. (BC girls roster; Butte High girls’ roster; BC boys’ roster; Butte High boys’ roster)

In the girls’ game, Butte High looks to close out the pre-Christmas portion of its schedule with a perfect record. Butte High enters the big game at 2-0 with non-conference wins over Bozeman Gallatin and Belgrade.

Central is 3-2 overall and fresh off Tuesday’s 58-25 victory at Corvallis.

The Maroons are looking to stop a three-game losing streak to the Bulldogs. The 50-24 win in 2019 gave the Bulldogs a 6-5 edge over the Maroons in the decade.

Junior Brooke Badovinac is off to a fantastic start for the Maroons, who see the bulk of their scoring come from three players. Badovinac has scored more than 20 points in all five BC games, including a 28-point performance in Saturday’s win over Dillon.

Sophomore Ella Moodry adds 12.8 points per game, while senior guard Sofee Thatcher, who leads the team in rebounding, averages 9.2 points.

Seniors Brenna Foley and Payton Hartwick round out the starting lineup for the Maroons. Sophomore’s Mollie Drew and Katheryn Lalicker are the first to contribute off the bench.

Juniors Maycee Anderson and Tameli Bayarou and sophomores Renee Creekmore and Ali Stajcar have also contributed for the long-time coach Meg Murphy’s Maroons.

Butte High only has two games in, but the Bulldogs have been impressive under first-year head coach Bryan Arntson.

Lightning-quick guard Kodie Hoagland averaged 12.5 points as the Bulldogs beat the Raptors and Panthers. Ashley Olson, a 6-foot-3 senior, is averaging a double-double with 10.0 points and 10.0 rebounds through the two games.

Seniors Tyler Clary and Brooke McGrath and junior Emmarie Richards round out the starting lineup for the Bulldogs. All three bring experience and scoring potential to the lineup.

Junior Laura Rosenleaf is averaging 7.0 points and 10.5 rebounds while coming off the bench.

Senior Pieper Joseph and junior Payton Clary have been key contributors off the bench. Juniors Kiahna Wetzel, Rian Ferriter, Taylor Bushman and Brooke Groesbeck have also seen time for the Bulldogs.

Ferriter is Butte High’s first girl to play basketball while also competing in wrestling for the Bulldogs.

Butte High holds a 36-18 advantage over the Maroons in the all-time series. Central’s last win came in 2017, when BC won its third straight over its Mining City rival.

Butte High’s boys are looking for their 100th win over the Maroons. The Bulldogs enter the night leading the all-time series 99-78-1.

The Bulldogs are also looking for their first win of the season after falling to Gallatin and Belgrade to open the season.

Three Butte High players average in double figures through two games. Junior Jace Stenson leads the way with 17.5 points per game. He scored 18 points and grabbed 10 rebounds in Butte’s emotional home loss to Belgrade on Friday.

Senior Kooper Klobucar, Butte’s 6-6 big man with a nice touch passing and shooting from the outside, averages 16.0, and junior Casey Merrifield hit four 3-pointers and scored 13 points in each of Butte High’s first wins.

Feisty senior guard Kenley Leary and junior Cameron Gurnsey round out Butte High’s starting lineup for third-year Bulldog coach Matt Luedtke. Junior Jonas Sherman and Bo Demarais have been the first two Bulldogs off the bench.

Freshmen Tocher Lee and Dylan Blache have also seen varsity time for the Bulldogs.

The Maroons enter the game at 5-0, but BC is battling a couple of injuries from the heavy early-season schedule.

Junior Dougie Peoples is averaging 19.2 points per game to lead BC, which beat Dillon Saturday and Corvallis Tuesday, both at home. He scored 32 in the win over the Beavers.

Fellow junior Eric Loos, who transferred from Butte High last January, averages 10.4 points per game. He pulled down 11 rebounds against Corvallis. Junior Kyle Holter, who missed a game last week with an ankle injury, averages 10 points per game.

Seniors Drew Badovinac and Bryson Sestrich round out the starting lineup for head coach Brodie Kelly. Sestrich is pass-first guard who can knock down the three, while Badovinac is a defensive specialist who showed last postseason that he can also score.

Sophomore’s Zane Moodry and Jack Keeley are first off the bench along with senior Joseph Sehulster.

Seniors Gage Guldseth and George Riojas have also seen time for the Maroons.

The meeting is the only time the Bulldogs will play the Maroons this season.