By Bruce Sayler
Determined defense and just enough offense lifted defending state Class A champion Butte Central to a 55-42 Southwestern A Conference high school boys’ basketball win Saturday.
The Maroons topped previously unbeaten Frenchtown in a clash of league powers at the Maroon Activities Center. The MTN Poll ranked the Broncs No. 2 this week in Class A, one notch above BC and one below No. 1 Lewistown.
“That’s a really good basketball team,” Butte Central head coach Brodie Kelly said about Frenchtown. “They have a lot of really talented players who play well together. This was a really hard win.”
The Maroons aren’t short of talented players either and they’ve been playing well together for a good long time, too. The win was their fifth in a row after a season-opening nonconference loss to Lewistown.
The final score marked the widest lead of the game by either team in what was a defensive tussle. Open shots were nearly impossible to get. Passing might have been the most important offensive ploy. Only 71 shots total were launched during the contest and with a 35-second clock ticking away.
“In the second half, I didn’t think (the Broncs) had a lot of field goals,” Kelly said after his team had limited Frenchtown to 14 shots past intermission. “A lot of their points (eight) were on free throws. There just weren’t a lot of shots. Both teams were taking a lot of charges.”
While Dougie Peoples was filling the hoops with 29 BC points, the BC defense was holding Frenchtown to 17 points after halftime.
Dating back to last season, Saturday’s win was only the second time Butte Central has played in the MAC in its last 18 games, Kelly noted.
Frenchtown’s only lead was a 1-0 edge on Connor Michaud’s second free throw. It was the first of nine points the 6-foot-6 Montana Tech recruit scored to go with a game-high 15 rebounds and four blocks. Eli Quinn, son of former Butte High star Mark Quinn, a former teammate of Kelly at Montana Tech, led the Broncs with 15 points. He also stands 6-6.
“Michaud is so long and has great ability,” Kelly said. “I thought we did a good job of staying down on him. Then, Eli has an arsenal of moves, making him hard to guard.”
The Maroons canceled out the Broncs’ early edge when Kyle Holter fed Zane Moodry for a basket and Owen McPartland then drilled the game’s first 3-point basket. Butte Central had a 5-1 lead and never relinquished it.
The Maroons were clinging to a 12-11 edge after Frenchtown’s Carter Anciaux meshed his second 3-pointer of the quarter. BC’s 6-4 senior post, Eric Loos, injured an ankle chasing a play under the basket and had to limp off the court.
Butte Central shut the Broncs out the rest of the quarter while building its lead to 19-11 as Peoples scored three points and sub Jack Keeley notched four.
Loos returned to the lineup in the next period, but Kelly said Keeley’s play off the bench was an important lift after the Loos injury.
“After Eric got hurt, Jack Keeley came in and got us two offensive rebounds and shots,” the coach said. “I felt that was a moment, when Eric got hurt, (the Broncs) might’ve been able to take a run at us.
“Another was later in the game when Kyle Holter hustled and made a play up on the backboard that was awesome.”
Frenchtown was able to close to within four points, 29-25, with 2 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first half after a Quinn 3-point basket and Sully Belcourt made two foul shots. The Maroons stretched the lead back out with a Holter trey and Peoples charity toss and held a 33-25 advantage at halftime.
The BC lead was 44-33 going into the fourth quarter and Holter’s block high on the board with about 5 minutes left resulted in Peoples being fouled rebounding the miss. Peoples caged both freebies, Butte Central owned a 49-37 cushion and then weathered a 5-0 Frenchtown run before icing the win with free throws by Loos and Peoples.
Holter finished with 11 points to back Peoples on the scoring list and pulled down six rebounds to share the team-high with Moodry. He also blocked two shots. McPartland finished with five points, Loos and Keeley with four apiece and Moodry with two. Konnor Pochervina and Joshua Sutton also played. The Maroons are now 5-1 for the season, 4-0 in conference play, and are to play host to neighborhood rival Anaconda on Thursday in nonconference competition.
FRENCHTOWN (7-1, 3-1) – Kellen Klimpel 2-6 1-2 6, Sully Belcourt 1-5 2-2 4, Carter Anciaux 2-3 2-2 8, Connor Michaud 3-9 3-4 9, Eli Quinn 5-9 3-5 15, Carter White 0-1 0-0 0, Joshua Lucier 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 13-34 11-15 42.
BUTTE CENTRAL (5-1, 4-0) – Dougie Peoples 9-17 10-13 29, Kyle Holter 3-7 4-7 11, Eric Loos 1-4 2-4 4, Owen McPartland 2-4 0-0 5, Zane Moodry 1-2 0-0 2, Jack Keeley 2-3 0-1 4, Konnor Pochervina 0-0 0-0 0, Joshua Sutton 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 18-37 16-25 55.
Frenchtown 11 14 8 9 – 42
Butte Central 19 14 11 11 – 55
3-point goals – Frenchtown 5-13 (Klimpel 1-3, Belcourt 0-1, Anciaux 2-2, Michaud 0-1, Quinn 2-4, White 0-1, Lucier 0-1), Butte Central 3-11 (Peoples 1-4, Holter 1-2, Loos 0-1, McPartland 1-3, Keeley 0-1). Fouled out – Klimpel. Total fouls – Frenchtown 23, Butte Central 14. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Frenchtown 25 (Michaud 14), Butte Central 24 (Holter 6, Moodry 6). Blocks – Frenchtown 4 (Michaud 4), Butte Central 3 (Holter 2, Loos 1). Assists – Frenchtown 11 (Belcourt 4), Butte Central 7 (Holter 3). Steals – Frenchtown 4 (Anciaux 2, Michaud 2), Butte Central 10 (Holter 3, Loos 2, Peoples 2, McPartland 2). Turnovers – Frenchtown 21, Butte Central 13.