By Bill Foley
Butte Central boys’ basketball coach Brodie Kelly laughed at the notion that his team was playing patient offensively Friday night.
Kelly’s Maroons had just knocked off the Dillon Beavers 53-46 in the semifinal game of the Southwestern A District basketball tournament at the Maroon Activities Center. (Stats)
“It’s funny because people think you’re being patient against Dillon. It just takes that long to find a look,” Kelly said. “You’ve got to move the ball around a lot of times to find a look because they cover so fast. It’s just part of the process.”
The win sends BC to the Saturday’s 6:30 p.m. championship game against Hamilton. More importantly, it sends the Maroons to the Western A Divisional tournament next week in Hamilton. (Bracket)
You almost get the sense that there was one that was even more important than that. Beating Dillon.
Coach Terry Thomas’ Beavers, after all, are less than two years away from winning their second straight Class A state title.
“That is such a hard team to beat,” Kelly said. “The thing about Dillon and all the teams that Terry coaches is they are just so disciplined and mentally tough. You’ve got to fight tooth and nail for every inch.”
“For our guys, that’s a great lesson in tournament basketball,” Kelly said. “It’s so hard to close out a tournament game. It’s just a different process to finish one, and it was a great job by our guys making free throws and taking care of the ball.”
Aside from a 28-second stretch in which Dillon held a 2-0 advantage, the Maroons never trailed Friday night.
That, however, does not mean this was an easy victory for BC, which improved to 16-3 on the season. The lead was not comfortable until the clock hit zero.
“They’re a tough team,” BC junior guard Luke Heaphy said. “I respect a lot of those guys.”
On top of that list is Michael Haverfield, a 6-foot-4 senior who has signed to play at Montana Western.
“Michael Haverfield is an amazing offensive player,” Heaphy said. “They’re all solid.”
Haverfield hit tough shot after tough shot Friday, scoring a game-high 25 points. He did that with BC senior Cade Holter, one of the top defenders around, in his hip pocket.
“Cade is a great defender, and Michael was just knocking down tough shots,” Heaphy said. “We’ve got to live with that sometimes. That pullup, it’s almost impossible to guard. He elevates so much. You can’t even get up in it.”
Haverfield is clearly back on top of his game after missing most of his junior season with a broken wrist.
“He’s unreal,” Holter said. “There’s no one way to guard him.”
Kelly praised Haverfield and Holter for their performances.
“That was awesome defense,” the coach said. “Those shots that Michael Haverfield hit were as hard as they come. Unbelievable performance by him. I don’t think I could have asked Cade to play better individual defense on him than he did.”
Yet, BC kept answering the Beavers.
After Braden Anderson scored 6 seconds into the game Braden Harrington answered with a 3-pointer in the corner to put the Maroons on top for good at 3-2.
Central led 9-2 before closing the first quarter with an 11-3 advantage.
The Maroons led 21-15 at halftime, and an 8-3 run to close the third quarter sent BC into the fourth quarter with a 33-25 advantage.
That lead was quickly knocked down to three. Dylan Cervelli hit a 3-pointer, and Haverfield followed with two free throws to cut the lead to 35-32.
Butte Central called time out with 4 minutes, 8 second left in the game. Then, Harrington sank another 3-pointer to extend the lead to 38-32.
“He made a good decision,” Kelly said of the junior’s crucial 3-pointer. “It wasn’t rushed. He looked corner, they backed off and he hit it. That’s a hard shot to make after you hold the ball for 2 seconds.”
“Sometimes coaching you feel it in your gut. That was a big shot.”
When Haverfield answered with a 3-pointer, BC junior Gator Yelenich answered back with another trey for a 41-35 lead.
Bradley Rakich kissed a shot off the glass to cut that lead to 41-37 only to see BC senior Dylan Sestrich score 16 seconds later.
From there, the Maroons hit 8 of 10 free throws, and Harrington scored off a great pass from Yelenich to close out the win.
They needed those, too, because Jace Fitzgerald scored on a put back and a 3-pointer, and Haverfield it another three as the Beavers fought hard until the end.
Harrington finished with 12 points to lead three Maroons in double figures. Heaphy, who dished out three assists, joined Holter with 11 points. Yelenich scored nine points for BC, while Matt Simkins contributed with four points and a game-high eight rebounds.
BC got two from Sestrich, Jared Simkins and Aaron Richards. Trevor Neumann also contributed in the win.
Haverfield was the lone Beaver in double figures. Rakich and Fitzgerald each scored five points, while Cole Truman, Justus Peterson and Cervelli tossed in three apiece.
Anderson scored two, and Warren DeMark and Alred Peterson also contributed for the Beavers, who fell to 13-7 with their first loss to a conference foe in more than a month.
The Beavers take on Corvallis in a 9:30 a.m. loser-out game Saturday at the MAC. Dillon can punch its ticket to the divisional tournament with a win in that morning game.
BC will now turn its attention to Hamilton, a team the Maroons split with in the regular season. The Maroons are not satisfied with merely advancing to the divisional tournament.
“We’re excited,” Heaphy said. “We want that championship.”