By Bruce Sayler
“Unselfish” is the operative word in the Butte Central boys’ basketball program. Dylan Sestrich said it often after Friday night’s win and Aaron Richards emphasized it too, following the Maroons’ 69-38 victory Saturday over Southwestern A Conference opponent Stevensville in the Maroon Activities Center (MAC).
Head coach Brodie Kelly flings it around freely. It must be the appropriate word, too, The BC boys are 12-0 for the season and 7-0 in conference games.
“There’s a lot to be excited about over this weekend,” Kelly said, referring also, in the statement, to the 60-26 shellacking Butte Central applied to Frenchtown on Friday. “We had a chance today for a letdown, but the guys played with focus and intensity on both ends of the court. They were unselfish.
“We had some good balance early, and Aaron got us going early.”
Richards, the 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior post, stepped out for a pair of 3-pointers in a decisive 22-8 first-quarter run. He went on to finish with a team-high 16 points and was one of three Maroons to pull down five rebounds. He and Cade Holter led the Maroons in steals with three apiece.
Such was the balance — three five-board rebounders and four double-digit scorers, along with another couple hours of smothering defense — that gave Stevensville little chance.
“Unselfish is the word,” Kelly said. “Everybody’s using it. Everyone’s role is important and everyone understands that.
“Aaron hitting two 3-pointers raised everybody’s excitement level. But, he can shoot those. He hits a lot of them in practice.”
The Yellowjackets, a team of eight seniors and three juniors, scored first. Logan Roth netted two free throws for Stevi’s only lead, 2-0 with 6 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first quarter. Braden Harrington tied the score on one of Gator Yelenich’s five assists, and then Richards put BC ahead not quite a minute later by grabbing an offensive rebound and scoring it.
It began a 10-0 run of unanswered points. Colby Meets canned a 3-pointer for Stevensville and then Butte Central ran off 13 points in a row, six of them on Richards’ treys.
“I think everyone is playing unselfish,” Richards said, using that “u” word again. “Anybody can do that (what he did) anytime you come out on the floor. We’re just playing together and finding the open guy.”
Doing all that, right now, is a blast, too, the player said.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “And, it’s fun putting Pat (Dolan) in there, and the JV guys. They go hard in practices getting us ready for these games.”
Dolan, a senior reserve, has become a late-game favorite of the crowd with his usually good 3-point shooting. The Maroons’ reserves have been seeing quite a bit of fourth-quarter time in recent games due to the leads the first eight or nine BC players into the game have been able to build.
Eight consecutive Butte Central baskets began the second period and widened the gap to 30-8. Kelly substituted liberally as the aggressive Maroons stacked some fouls, and Stevensville was able to put 13 points on the second-period board. The BC lead at halftime was 44-21.
Butte Central shot 19-for-28 from the field in the first half and committed only two of its 11 turnovers. The Maroons wound up hitting on 58 percent of their field goal tries for the game.
“We have a lot of guys who can play minutes,” Kelly said in a nod to his bench.
Butte Central found the 35-point margin in the third quarter that made the clock run without interruption on a Jared Simkins drive to the hoop two minutes before the start of the final frame.
It was a 64-26 difference heading into the fourth and the remaining time evaporated rapidly while Stevi and BC subs combined for 13 points.
It was the second straight game a Butte Central opponent has missed 30 field goal attempts, a testament to the Maroons’ defensive strength.
Harrington, Sestrich and Holter finished with 10 points each to back Richards’ game-high total. Trevor Neumann and Matt Simkins came off the bench to each score eight points, Jared Simkins had four points, Yelenich two and Bryan Holland one. Richards, Yelenich and Matt Simkins each pulled down five rebounds. Yelenich dished five assists.
Luke Heaphy, Dolan, Thomas McGree, Ryan Wahl and Egan Lester played, too. Heaphy concentrated on defense and on running the Maroons’ offense.
“Luke deserves a lot of credit for his unselfish mentality,” Kelly said. “He’s not out there looking for his own scoring opportunities and he’s playing great defense against good basketball players.”
Next on the BC schedule is a road game against non-conference opponent Belgrade on Thursday.
Roth was Stevensville’s leading scorer with 12 points. Devlin Sherman was next-high with eight. The Yellowjackets are 1-11 for the season, 0-6 in conference. Their December 15 loss to Butte Central in Stevensville was by 80-47.
STEVENSVILLE (1-11, 0-6) — Colby Meeds 1-8 2-4 5, Logan Roth 3-13 5-6 12, Devlin Sherman 4-5 0-0 8, Tanner Pendergast 0-0 2-2 2, Gavin Beeton 0-3 0-0 0, Kellen Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Riley Rust 0-3 1-2 1, Jaren Gum 0-2 0-0 0, Ivan Yazvac 1-5 0-0 2, Gavin Rahl 0-0 0-0 0, Sean Craft 2-2 0-0 4. Totals 11-41 10-14 34.
BUTTE CENTRAL (12-0, 7-0) — Luke Heaphy 0-3 0-0 0, Braden Harrington 4-10 0-0 10, Gator Yelenich 1-2 0-0 2, Cade Holter 4-7 2-2 10, Aaron Richards 7-8 0-0 16, Dylan Sestrich 5-5 0-0 10, Trevor Neumann 3-4 0-0 8, Jared Simkins 2-5 0-0 4, Matt Simkins 3-3 2-2 8, Patrick Dolan 0-2 0-0 0, Thomas McGree 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Wahl 0-0 0-0 0, Egan Lester 0-0 0-0 0, Bryan Holland 0-1 1-2 1. Totals 29-50 5-6 69.
Stevensville 8 13 5 8 — 34
Butte Central 22 22 20 5 — 69
3-point goals — Stevi 2-12 (Meeds 1-2, Roth 1-5, Sherman 0-1, Beeton 0-2, Rust 0-2), BC 6-13 (Heaphy 0-1, Harrington 2-4, Holter 0-1, Richards 2-2, Yelenich 0-1, Neumann 2-2, Dolan 0-2). Fouled out — none. Total fouls — Stevi 6, BC 15. Technicals — none. Rebounds — Stevi 20 (Sherman 3, Beeton 3), BC 31 (Richards 5, Yelenich 5, M. Simkins 5, Harrington 4). Blocks — Stevi 2 (Meeds 1, Pendergast 1), BC 5 (J. Simkins 2). Assists — Stevi 3 (Beeton 1, Roth 1, Sherman 1), BC 14 (Yelenich 5, Neumann 3). Steals — Stevi 4 (Four with 1 each), BC 13 (Holter 3, Richards 3). Turnovers — Stevi 20, BC 11.