Move over Marc, Tom, Sully, these Maroons are the best

Move over Marc, Tom, Sully, these Maroons are the best

On March 16, 1985, I was one heartbroken little boy.

My uncle Melvin and his girlfriend took my older brother to Bozeman to watch Butte Central play Livingston in the Class A State championship game at the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse.

Since Melvin was driving a tiny Chevy S-10, there was no room for me.

The game was not on television or even the radio, so I played by myself in my room, pretending to be playing for the Maroons as I bounced a small ball off the imaginary basket above my closet door.

That night, I fell asleep, waiting for my brother to come home and tell me about the Central win. I could not wait to hear details about the Maroons winning their second straight title.

When I heard the door open, however, it came with bad news. My brother told me the Maroons lost 99-97 in double overtime.

I did not believe him. Even though the Maroons were not undefeated going into the game, I did not think it was possible that those Maroons could lose.

As I closed in on my 11th birthday, I was pretty sure Marc Murphy, Tom Kenney and John Sullivan walked on water.

The next morning, I realized that it was not a bad dream. I opened The Montana Standard to read Jim Edgar’s story about the classic game.

Kenney scored 41 points — while playing on a bum ankle — to lead the Maroons, but Central still lost.

That is because Livingston had Shann Ferch, who scored 37 points. It might have been 50 if the 3-point line was a thing in high school basketball back them.

Still, the State champion Maroons of 1984 and the runner-up Maroons of 1985 were, in my eyes, the greatest Maroons of all.

Of course, I was not old enough to watch the 1978 Maroons that coach John Thatcher led to the title.

I was offended when Pat Kearney named the 1978 Maroons the greatest BC team of the century in 1999. I figured there was no way they could be better than the Big Three of Murphy, Kenney and Sullivan.

Neither could the 1950, 1956, 1992 or 2020 Maroons. Nobody would ever take the top spot from my favorite Maroons.

Well, it might be time for Marc, Tom and Sully to move on over.

Butte Central won the Class A State title Saturday night in Missoula, thanks to a Herculean performance by Dougie Peoples. The junior scored 37 points and sank a 27-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer in a 61-58 win over Lewistown.

The victory marked BC’s second title in three years, but it was the first time the Maroons actually won the championship game since 1992. They had to share the 2020 crown with Hardin because the COVID-19 pandemic hit Montana right as BC was beating Browning in the semifinals.

The 1978 Maroons went 22-4. BC went 21-3 and 20-4 in 1984 and 1985. In 2020, Central went 20-4, matching the 1992 champions.

The 2021-22 Maroons finished the season with an astonishing 26-1 record. Their only loss came to Dillon, and BC avenged that defeat twice with wins in the title games of the Southwestern A District and Western A Divisional tournaments.

Peoples, of course, is the superstar of the Maroons. He held that distinction even before his legendary performance to help the Maroons beat Lewistown, which entered the championship game at 22-1.

On the season, Peoples became just the third high school player — boy or girl — to join the 600-point club in a season. He was, by the way, the second player to do that this season, coming in behind BC classmate Brooke Badovinac.

She scored 671 points, while Peoples finished with 629, which was nine points shy of previous record holder Joe Antonietti, who had a monster year in 1969.

Over the last two seasons, Peoples scored 1,054 points. Even with a down year, he will pass the great “Jumpin’” Joe Kelly on BC’s boys’ all-time list.

Kelly holds the BC boys’ record with 1,404 points from 1942 through 1945.

Peoples never scored a varsity point as a freshman, either. What makes his season even more impressive was the fact that the Maroons blew everybody out. The win in the title game was just the second BC win of the season decided by single digits.

So, Peoples spent a whole lot of time sitting on the bench, with the game out of hand, in the fourth quarter.

In the semifinals of the Divisional tournament, he scored 39 points — three shy of Mike McLeod’s school record — while watching most of the final quarter.

It is not a stretch to say that Peoples could have scored 800 points this season. Coach Brodie Kelly, however, is not the kind of guy to run up the score on an opponent.

Until Saturday, the play of the year was Peoples’ four-point miracle to beat Dillon in the district title game in Dillon.

You might have seen a four-point play before, but I bet you never saw one when the team trailed by three with 23.7 seconds left.

In four games against the Beavers this season, Peoples scored 102 points.

Coach Terry Thomas’ Beavers play defense as well as anybody. There are teams that could not score 102 points in four games against the Beavers. Seriously.

Now, tell me with a straight face that Peoples should not win the Gatorade Player of the Year Award.

With all due respect to other top players around the state, the honor clearly should go to the “Peoples Champion.” It should not even be a discussion.

Peoples should win the boys’ award, and Brooke Badovinac should take home the girls’ honor.

Montana Tech coach Adam Hiatt was not joking when he offered Peoples a future spot on his team when Peoples was still in middle school. Now, Hiatt is going to have some serious competition.

It will be malpractice if the Montana and Montana State head coaches are not beating down the door of the left-handed Gary Kane.

Yes, that is the kind of name Peoples’ play brings up. Kane, Antonietti, Kelly, Bob O’Billovich, Mike Judd, Sean Walsh, Don Rae, John Dawson, Scott Ferguson.

Peoples might not be the best boy to ever play high school basketball in Butte. But he unquestionably joined the conversation.

It is not fair, though, to compare Peoples’ game to anyone. He is uniquely Dougie.

He has a lightning-quick release on a 3-point shot that, clearly, can come well behind the 3-point line. He can bend and contort his body to get the rim. He has a floater that is impossible defend.

Lewistown was face guarding him the entire game, and Peoples still scored 37.

You will also never meet a nicer, more respectful boy that Peoples. In a quarter of a century writing about sports, Dougie is the only player to hug me after an interview.

The thing about the Maroons, though, is that they would be really good even if they did not have Peoples.

Junior Kyle Holter would be the star of just about any team in the state. Eric Loos does so many things for the Maroons on offense and defense, and senior Bryson Sestrich showed that he can go off for a huge game at any time.

Senior Drew Badovinac is known for his defense, until his team needs an offensive spark in a tournament.

“We always say ‘Tournament Drew’ because he is always amazing in tournaments,” Peoples said not long after the hordes of media members finally left him following the championship game.

Sophomores Jack Keeley and Zane Moodry were key players off the bench, giving the Maroons reason to believe that back-to-back titles are in reach.

Senior Joseph Sehulster contributed off the bench, unselfishly doing the dirty work on defense and on the glass.

Seniors Gage Guldseth and George Riojas went to practice every day and took advantage of their playing time late in wins. So did junior Riley Gelling.

It is always hard to admit that some team could ever be better than the one you loved as a kid. I never thought I would see a Butte Central team surpass those of the mid-1980s.

I was wrong.

It is hard to argue with 26-1, and it is even harder to argue with Dougie Peoples.

As anyone in Missoula Saturday night will tell you, that kid really does walk on water.

— Bill Foley, who is still pissed at Shann Ferch and the designer of the Chevy S-10, writes a column that appears Tuesdays on ButteSports.com. Email him at foley@buttesports.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Foles74.



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