By Bruce Sayler
It was all about the kids — both short and tall.
Montana Tech celebrated its Tech Way program Tuesday with a pair of large basketball wins over Salish Kootenai in the Tech Gym before 500 Butte fourth-and-fifth-graders bused to the facility to view the contests.
The Oredigger men won by 107-50 and the women triumphed 101-24.
“It was a fun game with all the kids here,” Adam Hiatt, head coach of the Montana Tech men’s basketball program, said. “It was a reward for the Tech Way program. It was a really great way to connect with the kids.”
“It’s unusual for us to have a December home game in which the players can’t hear the coach in a timeout (because of the cheering).”
Athletes in all of Montana Tech’s sports programs participate in the Tech Way project that sends the Orediggers into the classrooms to help in teaching the students and to interact with the youth. Players were heard saying Tuesday they had as much fun as the kids. The weeks the players don’t go to the grade schools, Hiatt said, they make video presentations, instead, that are sent to the classes.
Athletes were in the stands Tuesday with the students and their teachers and chaperones and interacted with the kids. Timeouts featured interviews by the collegians, using live mics, with the grade schoolers. Halftime was a relay race involving most of the students where they changed in and out of Oredigger basketball jerseys on the relay exchanges.
So, yeah, it was a fun day.
The men’s team win saw six players score in double figures for Montana Tech. The production was led by freshman guard Drew Huse, who came off the bench to score 22 points. Blake Dittman, Taylor England and Derrius Collins finished with 16 apiece, Nate Ward had 12 and Dylan Pannabecker tallied 10.
“We’ve established ourselves as a terrific defensive team,” Hiatt said. “We’re a work in progress on the offensive end. If we can put that piece together, we think we can be a handful.”
The Orediggers shot 59 percent from the field while building a 57-28 halftime lead. Baskets by England, Dittman and Collins launched the second half. Then, Montana Tech pulled further away with an 8-0 run and a 9-0 splurge for 89-34 control midway through the last half.
The knockout was a 13-0 spree, six points by Huse, for a 107-49 spread before Shylon Stewart sank a free throw for the Bison that notched the last point of the game, 1:46 before its end.
William Mytty had six points to back the Montana Tech scoring leaders, Troy Owens Jr. and Carson Dummer each netted four and Cody Liles each had one. Christian Jones and Nick Fritts also played.
“It’s time for a break, now,” Hiatt said. “After the break, we’ll get back in and get ready for 16 straight Frontier Conference battles.”
The Orediggers are 11-3 this year and will take a 1-1 league mark to Helena on December 29 to resume Frontier Conference action against Carroll College.
Stewart led Salish Kootenai with 16 points, Kenny Louis-McGee had 15 and Jeremiah North Pigeon finish with 10.