BUTTE — Lockdown defense.
That’s been the calling card of the Butte Central boys’ basketball team this season and against Corvallis, it was again on display. The Maroons spotted the Blue Devils just nine points in the second half while scoring 27 of their own.
With the 50-27 win, Central moves to 9-1 on the season. Corvallis drops to 1-7.
“We had much better on-ball activity in the second half,” Maroons head coach Brodie Kelly said. “They put pressure on the basketball, had their hands active and made things difficult on them.”
Corvallis had several long possessions that they were able to turn into open looks and points during the first two quarters, but weren’t able to replicate that in the second half.
The openings they were able to find in the first half closed up as the Maroons’ defense and rebounding became much sharper. Central’s size and athleticism eventually wore down the Blue Devils, who were playing their second game in as many days.
“They’re always in position,” Corvallis head coach Zane Warnken said of Central’s defense. “You might beat one guy, but there’s always another. It makes it difficult to find other guys.
“It’s never a one-pass execution. It’s three or four or more.”
Central’s scoring opportunities also increased in the second half, as they were able to get some nice drives and a few transition opportunities.
After struggling a bit in the early portion of the game, Central sophomore post Aaron Richards played much better. Eight of his 12 points came in the second half and he gave the Maroons a big boost in rebounding.
When Richards did sit in the first half, Kelly went to Matt and Jared Simkins as well as Dylan Sestrich to give his lineup a bit of size.
“It was a little bit of a matchup and a little bit of defensive activity,” Kelly said. “We challenged Aaron at halftime and if you noticed, in the first three, four minutes of the second half, he did a great job. He got some deflections and challenged some shots and really wreaked havoc in there.”
Sestrich also had a strong game for the Maroons. He scored just six points, but had two layups and an assist at the end of the second quarter that helped give Central a 23-18 advantage going into halftime.
His defense was also a big part of the Maroons pulling away from the Blue Devils.
“We got our hands up, got to the ball and really stuck to our principles,” Sestrich said. “We crowed the ball and stayed active. We came out with a lot more intensity.”
He comes off the bench, but has been an important part of Kelly’s rotation throughout the year. Central only really goes seven players deep and getting key stretches out of Jared Simkins and Sestrich has been crucial.
“Dylan has some tools,” Kelly said. “He can do so many things with the basketball. As soon as he believes in himself, the sky’s the limit for him. He can shoot, he can drive, he can pass.
“He made some huge plays for us in the first half.”
Getting through a stretch that has included games against Butte High, Livingston and Dillon undefeated is something Kelly doesn't think he’s done before. Central has put itself in great position early in the year.
That said, they’re not satisfied.
“It’s important for us to realize how difficult these games have been for us to win,” Kelly said. “Our guys know they have a lot of places to improve. I like the way our guys are playing, but I still feel like we got ways to get better.”