While some athletes are turning their thoughts to softball diamonds and the upcoming track and field season, a few players had one more chance to hit the basketball court.
A group of high school boys’ and girls’ players gathered at Montana Tech’s HPER Complex for the ninth edition of the Southwest Montana All-Star Classic on Tuesday.
The event is hosted by Advantage Butte and the Butte Chamber of Commerce. All of the money raised goes toward the funding of hospitality rooms when Butte hosts postseason tournaments.
For Butte Central senior Emily St. John, it was her fourth time playing in the all-star game.
“It’s really exciting,” St. John said. “It’s always really fun to meet new people and to play with the people you play against. It’s fun.”
The Treasure State team jumped out to a 6-0 lead in the girls' game but the Butte Central duo of St. John and senior Mollie Peoples slashed away at the lead to pull the Big Sky squad to within one point.
But the Treasure State led by nine at the end of the first quarter.
The Treasure State continued to pull away in the second quarter, thanks to Twin Bridges junior Kailee Oliverson's play in the paint and from beyond the 3-point arc. Anaconda junior Sydnie Peterson also carried the hot hand, as both players combined for 13 total points to open the second quarter.
The halftime entertainment included a 3-point shooting showdown with the boys’ players. But boys’ contest didn’t turn out to be much of a contest.
Butte High senior Ryson Lovshin set the standard by hitting 17 shots in the first round and advancing to the championship round.
The other finalist was Dillon sophomore Michael Haverfield, who sank 16. He outshot Butte’s Evan Anderson (15) and Anaconda’s Kadin Stetzner (14) in the first round.
The final round was all Lovshin, who hit 18 3-pointers to Haverfield’s 12.
Lovshin said afterward that nothing was going to keep him out of this year’s contest.
“My 3-point percentage during the season was pretty high so I felt pretty confident coming in,” he said. “I think I was in the Top 5 for the AA Conference in shooting 3s, percentagewise.
“I would rather take a 3 than a 15-foot jumper. That just feels easier for me. It isn’t that difficult. It’s kind of like a free throw.”
Lovshin divulged part of his secret to success in contests like this.
“You just get in a rhythm. If you’re making shots, it’s quicker for them to get the ball back out to you,” he said. “If you miss a few shots, just make sure you’re holding your follow throw or fix what you’re doing wrong.”
After the 3-point contest, the girls wrapped up their game. The Treasure State squad was able to hold on for an 81-57 win.
Leading the Big Sky team was St. John with 12 points and Deer Lodge’s Josee Applegate with 10 points. Oliverson led the Treasure State team with 23 points and Dillon junior Brynley Fitzgerald chipped in 13.
Oliverson said it was an honor to play in the game for the second time.
“I love playing with a bunch of new people,” she said. “You get to learn everyone’s strengths on the court and you get to show off what you’re good at. You just play off each other.”
The boys’ game was full of dunks and big plays.
Big Sky jumped out to an early lead as both sides started draining 3’s. Whitehall senior Braden Larsen hit the first trey of the night, and he was followed up by Butte High’s Brock Powell. Butte Central senior Nate McGree added a 3-pointer after Powell to give the Big Sky team an 8-3 lead.
Anaconda junior Braxton Hill, who was representing the Treasure State team, pulled in on Big Sky’s lead as he went on an eight-point run. At the end of his run, Big Sky held a 17-15 lead. But the Treasure State took the lead after Ennis senior Jake Knack hit a trey.
During the second quarter, the Treasure State team opened the frame on a 7-0 run. The Treasure State team jumped out to a 10 point lead as the Big Sky team struggled to get drive the hoop. In the final 3:30 of the first half, Big Sky chipped away at the Treasure State lead.
Heading into the half and the girls’ 3-pointer shooting contest, Treasure State had a 48-44 lead.
The girls’ 3-point shooting contest had a couple of glitches until Peoples prevailed.
The first-round matchup between Dillon’s Bailey Berriochoa and Granite’s Jaden Comings had to be restarted when the 1-minute clock failed to start.
Peoples advanced to the championship round after hitting 16 3-pointers but her opponent in the finale wasn’t decided until Applegate beat St. John in a tiebreaker.
Applegate shot 10 3-pointers in the final round, with Peoples shooting 18.
“I don’t know if that’s actually right,” Peoples said of her announced tally. “I’m not sure that it was that many. It didn’t feel like 18, I don’t know.”
She said that getting back into shooting position was essential.
“Right after you shoot it, you want to get down and ready, said Peoples, who will be playing at Montana Tech next season. “That’s basically what I think. Right after I shoot it, be ready to catch and shoot.”
In the second half of the boys game, Big Sky maintained its lead. At one point, the team had a 20 point cushion. Big Sky held on to win the game, 117-105.
For Hill, who was participating for his third time, it was a nice change of pace after Anaconda's second-place finish at state.
“It’s really cool,” Hill said. “It’s fun and laid back. It’s not about winning or losing.”
The Big Sky team was led by Sheridan senior Tristen Horn with 20 points and Butte Central senior Tanner Kump and Nate McGree with 15 points apiece. Treasure State was led by Dillon senior Tanner Haverfield and Hill with 18 points each. Also chipping in for the Treasure State squad was Dillon sophomore Michael Haverfield with 14 points.
Several of the players were opponents as recently as last week in various state tournaments. In the Class B tournament, Anaconda and Whitehall were pitted against each other in the first round.
“It’s not really weird,” said Larsen on playing on the same team with Anaconda players. “We’ve known those kids for a while and played against them a lot. We’re friendly with them and it’s fun to play with them.”