By Bruce Sayler
The beginning of the end for Frenchtown in Friday night’s game was in the first four minutes when undefeated Butte Central, on its way to 60-26 domination, clicked off the first eight points of the game.
Stifling defense fueled the offensive explosion. The advantage was clear. In a Southwestern A Conference boys’ basketball tilt of all-league caliber athletes, Butte Central’s were bigger.
Their lineup was, anyway, at the start, which is where experience is usually a more coveted feature. The Maroons likely had the advantage there, too.
Six-foot-three senior Dylan Sestrich dotted the Maroon Activities Center (MAC) scoreboard with the first two points on a strong drive to the hoop. BC denied Frenchtown a chance to score on the other end and came back with a closeup basket by 6-1 junior Braden Harrington off an inbound pass underneath from Cade Holter.
The Broncs were to find the 6-0 Holter an annoyance the rest of the game, what with his 19 points, six rebounds and four assists. He also held Frenchtown scoring leader Cade Baker to eight points, six below average.
Butte Central’s opening spree ended with a rebound basket from 6-4 junior Jared Simkins, and a three-step drive by Harrington.
Frenchtown shortly subbed in some height, but the taller Broncs are also the younger and lesser experienced ones. So, it was the middle of the end. The Maroons rolled.
Frenchtown never caught the BC boys.
“I absolutely loved the way we played, defensively,” Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly, himself a one-time BC defensive star, said. “We defended collectively. Everybody was on it, helping each other our. And, Frenchtown has some really good offensive players.”
The Broncs are no slouches. Coached by Butte High grad Mark Quinn, a former teammate of Kelly’s at Montana Tech, the Broncs entered the fray with an 8-2 record. All starters measured 6-0 to the 6-3 Hank Rugg before the bench yielded some 6-4 and 6-5 prospects to try to match up better with Butte Central’s length. However, doing so cost some athleticism while the Maroons retained.
“Defensively, this is the best game we’ve played,” Sestrich said. “We played together, We’re really starting to click more and more as we play together.”
The defense held Frenchtown to 25 percent shooting from the field. The Broncs made 10 shots, missed 30. Butte Central won in other statistics, too — eight more rebounds, 10 more assists, five more steals and 10 fewer turnovers. No Broncs scored in double figures.
“The guys were locked in on defense,” Kelly said. “Frenchtown made some tough shots.”
Holter, Luke Heaphy and Simkins drew the coach’s praises, in particular, for their efforts while continuing to tour the overall team’s overall defensive performance.
The Maroons led 13-7 after the first quarter and then sped away from the Broncs in the second quarter. A half-closing run made by Holter scoring on a fast break from a Heaphy steal, Heaphy then drilling a 3-pointer off a pass from Holter and Matt Simkins taking a Heaphy pass to the basket, expanded BC’s gap to 28-14 at halftime.
Heaphy finished the game with seven assists and five steals to go with his trey. Harrington was second on the team in scoring with 14 points.
A 16-5 third-quarter rout for Butte Central made for a 44-19 difference and signaled players all the way to the ends of both benches to prepare for removing their warmups. Game time was about to be gotten.
“We just like to play together,” Sestrich said. “We’re not at all selfish. We play together and we play to win. It’s helping out on defense. On offense, we’re all always trying to find the open man (for a good shot).”
Kelly pointed to Holter’s court authority as being an important cog with the Maroons in high gear.
“The leadership Cade brings to the crew is awesome,” the coach said. “I think we’re an unassuming bunch and they just look on who’s next on the schedule.”
All opponents have their respect. Sestrich conceded that he and his teammates focus on the immediate every time they play, but they are also aware of who else is out there to be played.
“They’ve been on our minds,” he said of the opponents on the BC slate, “because we know we’ll be playing them again.”
The next ones will be the Stevensville Yellowjackets, at 4 p.m on Saturday at the MAC.
Jared Simkins had seven rebounds and was third in team scoring with six points. Sestrich had five points, Gator Yelenich four, Heaphy and Patrick Dolan three points each, and Aaron Richards, Trevor Neumann and Matt Simkins two points apiece. Thomas McGree, Ryan Wahl, Egan Lester and Bryan Holland also played. The win put the Butte Central records at 11-0 for the season, 6-0 in Southwestern A Conference play.
Frenchtown, 8-4 and 3-3. Baker and Rugg scored eight points each to lead the team versus BC. A 6-5 freshman, Devin Shelton, led the defense with three blocks.
FRENCHTOWN (8-4, 3-3) — Cade Baker 3-11 0-0 8, Mason Pyron 0-2 0-0 0, Brandon Finley 1-2 2-2 5, Hank Rugg 4-9 0-0 8, Zack Baker 1-4 0-0 2, Dawson Leishman 0-1 0-0 0, Devin Shelton 0-3 1-4 1, Jared Cole 0-2 0-0 0, Ben Larson 1-2 0-0 2, Tel Arthur 0-0 0-0 0, Kaiden Romney 0-0 0-0 0, Aidan Cyr 0-1 0-0 0, Carson Shepherd 0-0 0-0 0, Jeffrey Jacobs 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 10-40 3-6 26.
BUTTE CENTRAL (11-0, 6-0) — Jared Simkins 3-3 0-0 6, Luke Heaphy 1-6 0-0 3, Braden Harrington 6-9 0-2 14, Dylan Sestrich 2-7 0-0 5, Cade Holter 9-13 0-1 19, Aaron Richards 0-3 2-2 2, Gator Yelenich 2-3 0-0 4, Trevor Neumann 1-2 0-0 2, Matt Simkins 1-5 0-0 2, Patrick Dolan 1-2 0-1 3, Thomas McGree 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Wahl 0-0 0-0 0, Egan Lester 0-0 0-0 0, Bryan Holland 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 26-53 2-6 60.
Frenchtown 7 7 5 7 — 26
Butte Central 13 15 16 16 — 60
3-point goals — Frenchtown 3-11 (C. Baker 2-5, Pyron 0-1, Finley 1-2, Z. Baker 0-1, Leishman 0-1, Cole 0-1), BC 6-16 (Heaphy 1-3, Harrington 2-4, Sestrich 1-3, Holter 1-2, Neumann 0-1, M. Simkins 0-1, Dolan 1-2). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Frenchtown 14, BC 13. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Frenchtown 26 (Rugg 5), BC 34 (J. Simkins 7, Holter 6). Blocks — Frenchtown 4 (Shelton 3), BC 3 (J. Simkins 2). Assists — Frenchtown 7 (C. Baker 2, Pyron 2), BC 17 (Heaphy 7, Holter 4, Harrington 2). Steals — Frenchtown 6 (Rugg 2, Shelton 2), BC 11 (Heaphy 5). Turnovers — Frenchtown 23, BC 13.