Spartan boys turn back Bulldogs in opener

Spartan boys turn back Bulldogs in opener
Butte High's Tommy Mellott drives to the hoop in Missoula Sentinel traffic Thursday afternoon at the Sentinel gym. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

MISSOULA — Butte High’s boys’ basketball team did a whole lot right Thursday afternoon.

Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, they did enough wrong, too.

Missoula Sentinel took advantage of the offensive glass, and the Spartans beat Butte High 65-48 in the opening round of the Western AA Divisional tournament at the Sentinel gym. (Sentinel stats, Butte stats)

“They had 15 (offensive rebounds) in the first half, and that killed us,” Butte High coach Matt Luedke said. “We’re down 13, and they have 15 offensive boards.”

The loss sends the Bulldogs to a 10:30 a.m. loser-out game Friday against Kalispell Flathead. (Bracket)

Luedtke wasted little time turning his attention toward that game, noting Butte High is still just two wins away form qualifying for next week’s Class AA State tournament in Bozeman.

“We’ll bounce back,” Luedke said. “That’s the thing. We knew win or lose we’d come back tomorrow and play. We still have a chance to make the state tournament. Hopefully the kids keep their heads up and we can come out and get after it tomorrow.”

Butte High (6-13) was in the game early with the Spartans, who beat the Bulldogs twice in the regular season.

Sentinel (15-4) led 18-12 after Tony Frohlich-Fair swished a long 3-pointer as time expired in the first quarter.

The Bulldogs had bounced back from a 10-2 deficit, thanks to two inside buckets from Ryan Burt and one each by Kaven Noctor and Tommy Mellott.

Butte High tailed just 20-16 after Jake Olson got in on the action with a contested bucket.

Then, things went bad for Butte High, and quickly.

Alex Germer hit a baseline 3-pointer to start a 15-6 run to close the half, sending Sentinel to the locker room leading 35-22.

Butte High switched from its 2-3 zone to a man-to-man defense to try to slow the Spartans down, and it didn’t work.

Sentinel used a 20-4 run to turn a 35-24 game into a 55-28 advantage.

“They got hot. They hit a couple of shots,” Luedtke said. “We came out in man, trying to be more aggressive, and they just got easy layups.”

“I was disappointed with the effort on the glass,” the coach added. “They worked hard to get them to shoot contested shots. But you’ve got to finish possessions.”

Butte High battled until the end, and that might have cost them.

Billy Kelly, who played for the first time since breaking an ankle on Jan. 21, left the game late with a shoulder injury, and his status for Friday is up in the air.

Kenley Leary and Mikey O’Dell also left the game with ankle injuries.

“They’re fighting out there,” Luedtke said. “Sentinel is just a good team. They’re the three seed and we’re the six seed for a reason.”

Germer hit four 3-pointers and scored 17 points to lead three Spartans in double figures.

Frohlich-Fair, a 6-foot-5 junior guard, scored 13 points to go along with nine rebounds and two assists.

“He killed us,” Luedtke said of Frohlich-Fair, “and Germer made some big shots.”

Hayden Kolb scored 12 points for Sentinel, while Parker Lindsay tossed in eight, and Rausch netted seven.

Blake Drakos scored 10 points to lead the Bulldogs, who got seven from Mellott and Cael Stenson. Mellott dished out four assists.

Burt and Olson each scored six, O’Dell tossed in five, Kelly scored three, and Dillon Ferry tossed in two.

Andrew Booth also started and contributed for the Butte High effort.

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