By Bruce Sayler
The after-effects of beating Kalispell Flathead Friday probably included sluggish play in a loss to Kalispell Glacier on Saturday.
Butte High head boys’ basketball coach Matt Luedtke favored the possibility while reasoning the 62-54 loss to the Wolfpack in a Saturday afternoon Western AA Conference game at Butte High’s Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
“The physicality yesterday (a 61-55 home win over Flathead) didn’t help us today,” the coach said. “We probably, as coaches didn’t do good enough early in the year in getting these guys conditioned.
“After a nice win last night, the guys had about 16 hours to enjoy it. Now, we have wait for the next game (to try to win again). They’re competing. They don’t think there’s anybody they can’t beat.”
The Bulldogs looked to be pointed toward winning again versus Glacier with a good start to the contest.
They ran out to a 7-0 lead in a spree begun on a Jace Stenson free throw and capped by Kenley Leary’s first of four 3-point baskets. Stenson was Friday’s points leader with a career-high 31 and Leary, while going 4-for-4 from 3-point range, was Saturday’s with 21.
Glacier answered with a 9-0 run to take its first lead.
Will Salonen, grandson of Butte Sports Hall of Famer Bill Salonen, launched the spurt with a 3-pointer that also consisted of rebound baskets by Noah Dowler and Kyson Wagner and a bucket by Tyler McDonald.
Leary gunned in two more 3-pointers before the end of the first quarter, which ended in a 16-all tie.
The Bulldogs expanded their lead in the second period after falling behind 19-16 on a 3-pointer by the Wolfpack’s Connor Sullivan. Stenson followed a miss with a basket, drawing an and-one he converted and then Kooper Klobucar broke the 19-all tie with a pair of free throws. Klobucar scored inside off a pass from Stenson and Butte High had a 23-19 edge.
The gap later widened to 10 points, 32-22, after Rueso Batterman came off the bench to can a corner 3-pointer, Stenson power-drove for a hoop and Bo Demarais sank two foul shots.
McDonald’s 3-pointer pulled Glacier closer and the teams left the floor for halftime with the Bulldogs holding a 32-25 margin.
The Wolfpack blew past them in the third quarter like the Bulldogs were trying to run in sand.
Salonen and Sullivan baskets narrowed the difference to three points. After Leary was successful on two charity tosses, Glacier tied the score at 34-all on a Sullivan 3-pointer and a Dowler layup fed him by Ty Olsen.
Klobucar caged a pair of freebies for what turned out to be Butte High’s last lead.
Nolan Hyde’s only basket pulled Glacier even at 36-all and the Wolfpack tallied seven more points, two each by Dowler and Sullivan, and a McDonald trey, for a 43-36 advantage.
Leary scored five points to bring the Bulldogs to a two-point game before Sullivan nailed a 3-ball just ahead of the buzzer and Glacier owned a 46-41 advantage heading into the last frame.
Sullivan’s two free throws and Dowler’s layup from Salonen to launch the final period stretched the Wolfpack’s lead to 50-41. Leary’s three-point play and two more made foul shots cut it to five points, but the Bulldogs were unable to get any closer.
“I’m really proud of our guys on how hard they played,” Luedtke said. “We got into foul trouble and had to shorten our rotation. The foul trouble had us bring Rueso in earlier and played well, drilled that 3 from the corner. That was a big shot.
“Jace had a heck of a weekend. He played hard, but the shots didn’t fall for him today like last night.”
Stenson still scored 13 points and Klobucar notched 10 for three Butte High double-figure scorers.
“We got tired,” Luedtke said. “And, so, we weren’t executing like we had, and then we were fouling more and making mental errors because of it.
“Kenley had a helluva game.”
The coach credited Glacier with playing well, especially the Wolfpack floor leader, Sullivan, who tallied a team-high 19 points. The 6-foot-7 Dowler worked the Bulldogs over on the inside for 15 points and 10 rebounds.
“Glacier is good,” Luedtke said. “That Sullivan kid is really, really good. We did a good job on him in the first half, but then we got into foul trouble.”
Sullivan scored 14 of his points after halftime. He also had five steals and four assists for the game. He led a good Glacier defensive effort in the backcourt.
“They pressed our guards (for turnovers),” Luedtke said. “But, I’ proud of our guys’ effort. I’m anxious to get back to practice and get ready for (Missoula) Hellgate on Tuesday.”
Cameron Gurnsey had five points and a team-high three steals for Butte High, which also got six rebounds each from Stenson and Demarais. Batterman had three points, and Demarais two while Jonas Sherman and Tocher Lee also contributed significant minutes. Butte High remains without starting guard Casey Merrifield, who has been out with a leg injury since before Christmas.
The Bulldogs’ game with Hellgate Tuesday will be in Missoula.
GLACIER (3-8, 2-4) — Connor Sullivan 5-9 6-6 19, Ty Olsen 3-7 0-0 6, Nolan Hyde 1-4 0-0 2, Will Salonen 2-2-8 1-2 6, Noah Dowler 7-10 1-4 15, Kyson Wagner 2-5 2-3 6, Jake Turner 0-1 0-0 0, Tyler McDonald 3-5 0-0 8, Kaid Buls 0-0 0-0 0, Cohen Kastelitz 0-1 0-0 0, Xavier Stout 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 23-51 10-15 62.
BUTTE HIGH (3-10, 3-6) — Jace Stenson 5-15 3-5 13, Cameron Gurnsey 1-8 2-5 5, Kenley Leary 6-9 5-5 21, Bo Demarais 0-2 2-2 2, Kooper Klobucar 3-7 4-6 10, Jonas Sherman 0-0 0-0 0, Tocher Lee 0-3 0-0 0, Rueso Batterman 1-1 0-0 3. Totals 16-45 16-23 54.
Glacier 16 9 21 16 — 62
Butte High 16 16 9 13 — 54
3-point goals – Glacier 6-15 (Sullivan 3-5, Olsen 0-2, Salonen 1-3, Dowler 0-1, Wagner 0-1, McDonald 2-3), Butte High 6-19 (Stenson 0-3, Gurnsey 1-5, Leary 4-4, Demarais 0-2, Klobucar 0-3, Lee 0-1, Batterman 1-1). Fouled out – none. Total fouls – Glacier 18, Butte High 14. Technicals – none. Rebounds – Glacier 37 (Dowler 10), Butte High 28 (Klobucar 7). Blocks – Glacier 0, Butte High 2 (Klobucar 2). Assists – Glacier 16 (Salonen 5), Butte High 7 (Stenson 3). Steals – Glacier 10 (Sullivan 5), Butte High 8 (Gurnsey 3). Turnovers – Glacier 19, Butte High 17.