The reigning state champions will have a chance to defend their championship this weekend in Great Falls at the Class A state tournament. Stevensville will return as the No. 2 seed from the Southwest A conference, after falling to Dillon, 55-34, in the championship game in Butte on Saturday. The Yellowjackets will play Laurel, the Eastern A champion. Laurel has a record of 18-2.
“Our goal was to get to Great Falls,” said first year coach Joey Wark. “We have three more practices. The seniors don’t want to be done playing basketball.”
Stevensville came out playing tough in the championship game and jumped out to 10-2 lead before Dillon found their range. Dillon’s Troy Scott shot a long three pointer at the beginning of the second quarter to take the lead. Dillon went to the charity line 35 times in the game and made 26 points off of those attempts. Stevensville had 11 free throw attempts and sank four. Wark said the emotions of the game did have some effect but he also thought the team was tired from the double overtime game on Friday night. Zach Gavlak, who battled foul trouble the entire tournament, picked up his fifth foul with two and a half minutes remaining in the game. The ‘Jackets scored only once more after that when Jace Omlid hit a trey. Jared Schultz, who had a Dillon Beaver shadowing him closely the entire night, was held to only 12 points.
Dillon 55, Stevensville 34
Stevensville – Chance Coleman 8, Zach Gavlak 6, Jared Schultz 12, Chris Bergman 3, Jace Omlid 5.
Dillon – Kluesner 5, Williams 6, JD Ferris 2, Scott 16, Richardson 8, Love 9, Justin Ferris 5, Jason Ferris.
The ‘Jackets battled Butte Central through two overtime periods before pulling off the win in the semi finals. Stevi took control of the game early and burst out to a 9-2 lead at the end of the first quarter. They were up by 12 points before Butte Central got going. Marcus Ferriter of Butte Central hit a couple of buckets to pull the Maroons within three points at the end of the third quarter. Gavlak had had a great inside game going and had 19 points. However he picked up his fifth foul with almost three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter and had to watch from the sidelines.
“It was very nerve wracking,” said Gavlak. “I just had faith in my team that they would get it done. I kept telling them they had to make the shot and to play hard.”
With Gavlak out, the team went to their go-to guy, Jared Schultz. Wark said they knew they had to get the ball into his hands. But even still, Butte Central kept the pressure on and tied the game at the end of regulation play at 41-all when Kale Guldseth hit a trey to tie it.
Schultz did what he needed to at the beginning of the first overtime period with his patented fade-away jumper. The ‘Jackets had their chances at the charity line but only scored two of four free throws. Guldseth did his thing at the buzzer and tied the game up again, 45 all.
“We had to control the ball,” said Wark. “He (Schultz) is the best point guard in the conference and we knew he had to have the ball. He steps up a lot and he likes the pressure.”
Schultz again hit the opening shot in the second overtime period. And then he hit another, as well as two of four free throws. Bryce Torrey added the other point and the Yellowjackets had the game, 52-48.
Wark also credited Christopher Bergman for coming off the bench and picking off several key rebounds. Chance Coleman, Chris Lords and Torrey also were strong on the boards.
Stevensville 52, Butte Central 45 2OT
Butte Central – Guldseth 11, Peterson 3, Ferriter 9, Bolstad 13, Hollow 3, Sessions 9.
Stevensville – Lords 6, Coleman 5, Gavlak 19, Schultz 16, Torrey 3, Bergman 3.
Stevensville opened against Anaconda and had a battle on their hands the entire time. The ‘Jackets spotted Anaconda six points before getting on the board. Then Schultz went to work with four straight baskets. But, as Wark said, Anaconda came out hard and played tough. Stevensville maintained the lead but the Copperheads came within five points with less than two minutes remaining in the game. Stevensville held on to win, 58-53.
“There are no easy games,” said Wark. “We knew they were going to come after us.”
Wark said that Schultz did what was expected of him, shoot the ball and control the game. Schultz finished with 26 points. Bryce Torrey had 11 points and Gavlak 10.
“I have to give the credit to my teammates,” said Schultz. “They knew I was on and were giving me the ball.”