“Gone. Fought. Won!”
In case you haven’t heard, the Stevensville Yellowjackets won the boys’ basketball Class A championship on Saturday night in Billings. It was the first ever boys basketball championship for Stevensville and the first time a valley boys’ team has won a basketball championship since 1962.
“ We’ve come full circle,” said coach Keith Chambers. “My first year I got here, we played in the state championship in the Civic Center. We didn’t get over .500 until we got to state that year and ran into a tough Butte Central team.”
Chambers is going out at the top of the game. The 22-year veteran coach submitted his resignation just prior to divisional tournaments and then had to hope he wasn’t going to regret it and leave without the state championship. He said they knew they had a tough draw for their first game against Browning. Then he added, “turns out there were a couple tough ones. But, we just had to take care of our side of the bracket. Which we did and then we got to the championship game.”
Billings Central, with a record of 16-6, came up the other side of the bracket with wins over Frenchtown and Butte Central to challenge the Yellowjackets. The two teams matched up and played evenly throughout the first half with only one point separating them at the half. But Stevensville came out with a purpose in the second half. A trey by Kadin Beller got them excited. Then Zach Gavlak hit a jumper, and Jared Schultz chimed in with another trey and the ‘Jackets were off. There were six points separating the two teams at the end of three quarters. While they were stepping up their offense, the Yellowjackets were also stepping up their defense. They clamped down on the Rams and went on to win, 73-59.
“We came in the locker room at half time and said we have to step it up,” said Kadin Beller. “My last time on the floor and so I wanted to give it my all and we all just stepped up the intensity the second half and pulled away.”
Stevensville 73, Billings Central 59
Billings Central – Jacob Stanton 18, Riley Nichols 3, Garrett Flaming 4, Connor Cerkovnik 6, Blayne Sandau 12, CDaniel Meyer 7, Dylan Hanser 9.
Stevensville – Austin Lords 12, Kadin Beller 3, Zach Gavlak 21, Jesse Sims 20, Jared Schultz 17.
Jared Schultz broke out of a late season scoring slump and helped lead the Stevensville Yellowjackets to a 65-64 win over the Browning Indians in Stevensville’s first game of the State Class A basketball game in Billings.
“Like (coach) Rosin says, ‘if you’re not hot, keep shooting until you get hot’, said Chambers. “ He and Kadin, on Friday night, hit some really big shots.”
Stevensville lead for much of the game against Browning but never by much. The Indians played a running, gunning style of game that had Stevensville on their toes.
“We were going to try and be the running Caucasians and they were the running Indians. Turns out they’re better at it than we are,” he concluded.
Zach Gavlak had four fouls at the end of the third quarter but Chambers kept him in the game. It was a good thing too. Gavlak hit the game winning shot with only seconds remaining. A last second shot by Browning fell short and Stevensville was in the semi finals.
Stevensville sophomore Jesse Sims finished with 20 points including 8 of 9 free throws. Stevensville pulled down 45 rebounds with Austin Lords leading the way with 13 boards. Browning pulled down 28. But one area that wasn’t good for the ‘Jackets were the turnovers. Stevensville committed 31 turnovers. Chambers said he doesn’t ever remember winning a game where his team had 31 turnovers.
Stevensville 65, Browning 64.
Stevensville – Austin Lords 6, Kadin Beller 8, Chance Coleman 2, Zach Gavlak 12, Jesse Sims 20, Jared Schultz 17.
Browning – Dan Hall 8, Isaac McKay 2, George Hall 7, Clarence McNabb 2, DeeJay Lazy Boy 25, Jalen Croff 14, Sam Croff 6.
The ‘Jackets took on Laurel in semi final action. After trailing at the end of the first quarter, the ‘Jackets took the lead at the half by one. The team muscled their way through the final half with Gavlak leading the way with 15 points. Jesse Schultz added 14 and Schultz had nine. Gavlak also had seven rebounds.
“We were ready for this,” said Gavlak. “We worked our butts off all year for this.”
Stevensville 52, Laurel 49
Laurel – Taylor Maida 8, Shawn Nardella 7, Bryce Herman 11, Brett Thompson 12, Evan Jones 11.
Stevensville – Austin Lords 6, Kadin Beller 7, Chance Coleman 1, Zach Gavlak 15, Jesse Sims 14, Jared Schultz 9.
“We get to the state championship by a total of four points,” concluded Chambers.
After the buzzer, there was one last phone call to make, to coach Bob Luoma, the long time volunteer that has helped the Yellowjackets for years. Luoma couldn’t make the trip to Billings.
“He’s been a big part of these kids and a big part of the program. There’s a man that’s forgot more basketball than people even know. He’s worked at it, that’s his life’s passion. It’s nice to be able to share that with somebody. We were very fortunate that he chose us to share that with.” And you can be sure the Yellowjackets will share their title with Coach Bob too.