By Bill Foley
When the shots weren’t falling Friday night, Butte Central’s boys’ basketball team went to its old standby.
The Maroons played defense. Really, really good defense.
“Sometimes shots aren’t going to fall, but as long as we play hard on defense it will be there for us,” Central junior Braden Harrington said. “We can rely on that.”
BC’s tough defense bought some time for the offense until the Maroons eventually busted out for a 20-4 over the third and fourth quarters for a 45-35 win over archrival Dillon in a Southwestern A game at the Maroon Activities Center.
“Our defense was awesome all night,” BC coach Brodie Kelly said. “The shots that they got they earned. Those shots by Michael Haverfield are as tough as they come.”
The win lifted the Maroons to 7-0 overall and 4-0 in conference play heading into Saturday’s 4 p.m. non-conference game at Livingston.
The Maroons led almost the entire game. Luke Heaphy and Dylan Sestrich sandwiched a free throw by Harrington with 3-poitners to give the Maroons a 7-0 lead.
For the rest of the first quarter — and pretty much the entire first half — Central couldn’t buy a bucket.
Of course, Dillon’s tight zone defense had a lot to do with BC’s rash of missed bunnies. Nearly every shot was heavily contested.
“These guys defend collectively as hard as anybody we play,” Kelly said of the Beavers. “It’s hard to get shots. It’s hard to take care of the basketball.”
While Dillon only led two times — and each lead was short lived — the Beavers were right on BC’s heals most of the way.
Haverfield, Dillon’s 6-foot-4 senior who scored a game-high 20 points in the loss, rattled in a contested 3-pointer at the buzzer as the Beavers closed the first quarter with an 8-2 run to pull within 9-8.
When Jared Simkins scored off a nice pass form Luke Heaphy to cap a 10-4 run and put the Maroons up 21-12, Dillon closed the first half with seven straight points to pull within two points at halftime.
Dillon took its first lead with Jace Fitzgerald sank a 3-pointer for a 24-23 advantage with 6 minutes, 55 seconds left in the third quarter.
Heaphy put BC back on top by taking a steal the distance for a 25-24 lead.
A challenged Haverfield mid-range jumper made it 26-25 in favor of Dillon with 5:04 left in the frame. Just 16 seconds later, Harrington put BC back on top with a 2-point bucket.
Heaphy followed that Harrington hoop by scoring off a Simkins pass on a fast break.
Dillon’s Bradley Rakich scored with 4:14 on the clock, and it was Dillon’s last field goal for more than 8 minutes.
Gator Yelenich scored off a Cade Holter pass, and Harrington hit a fadeaway 17-foot baseline jumper to give the Maroons a 33-28 lead heading into the final stanza.
Simkins scored in the post with 4:11 left in the game to cap the 20-4 run that build BC’s lead to 45-30. The Maroons didn’t score again. Thanks to their defense, though, they didn’t need to.
“That just shows that if we rely on defense, there’s going to be somebody who is going to step up and score,” Harrington said. “We know our roles and what we need to accomplish to win the game.”
Eight different Maroons scored, with Harrington’s 17 points once again leading the way.
“The kid’s got an knack for scoring,” Kelly said of Harrington, who is averaging a team-best 15.7 points per game.. “He’s a fearless player. He scores in a variety of ways — that put back in the first half and baseline drive in the second. He’s just playing good basketball.”
In addition to a handful of impressive assists, Heaphy scored seven points in the win.
“He’s a really good point guard,” Harrington said. “He know how to pass it. He’s always got his eyes up looking for an open man.:”
Simkins scored six points, while Yelenich tossed in four, Sestrich, Holter and Trevor Neumann scored three, and Aaron Richards tossed in two.
Kelly said the story was more than just scoring.
“Gator Yelenich played one of the best games of his career tonight,” Kelly said. “I don’t know what his stats were, but he was so good with the basketball. Dillon is a hard team to take care of the ball against, and he did a phenomenal job.”
The coach pointed to the off-ball defense of Heaphy. That is something the junior has been working on.
“Luke Heaphy was fantastic tonight” Kelly said. “A lot of those drives that Haverfield tried to get tonight weren’t there because Luke was in the right spot. Those are really meaningful things.
“Jared Simkins. I’m not sure anybody is going to know what he did tonight, but he is so good at being in the right spot at the right time,” Kelly added. “Everybody is doing their job.”
The Maroons also got Matt Simkins on the floor for the first time this season. The junior has been battling a foot injury since the football season.
“If that kid had to play 32 minutes, I’ve got confidence he could play 32 minutes,” Kelly said. “He’s a tough kid.”
Braden Anderson and Bradley Rakich each scored five points for the Beavers, who fell to 5-2 and 1-2. Fitzgerald scored three points, and Cole Truman tossed in two.
The Beavers are back on the road to take on Stevensville in a Southwestern A game Saturday.
Kelly said there is no time to feel too good about Friday’s win over the Beavers because the team is catching the bus at 10:15 a.m. Saturday for another tough game.
“We’ve played a really challenging schedule,” Kelly said. “We’ve got to be locked in every game.”
DILLON (5-2, 1-2) — Michael Haverfield 5 8-8 20, Braden Anderson 2 0-0 5, Cole Truman 1 0-0 2, Bradley Rakich 2 1-2 5, Jace Fitzgerald 1 0-0 3, Warren DeMark 0 0-0 0, Cole Johnson 0 0-1 0, Justus Petesen 0 0-0 0, Alfred Peterson 0 0-0 0, Dylan Cervelli 0 0-0 0. Totals 11 9-11 35.
BUTTE CENTRAL (7-0, 4-0) — Jared Simkins 2 2-2 6, Luke Heaphy 3 0-0 7, Braden Harrington 7 1-2 17, Dylan Sestrich 1 0-0 3, Cade Holter 1 0-2 3, Aaron Richards 1 0-0 2, Gator Yelenich 2 0-0 4, Trevor Neumann 1 0-0 3, Matt Simkins 0 0-0 0. Totals 18 3-6 45
Dillon 8 11 9 7 — 35
Butte Central 9 12 12 12 — 45
3-point goals — Dillon 4 (Haverfield 2, Anderson, Fitzgerald), BC 6 (Harrington 2, Heaphy, Sestrich, Neumann, Holter). Fouls — Dillon 11, BC 14. Fouled out — none. Technicals — none.