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BUTTE — Brodie Kelly is still learning things about his team.

It may be the final weekend of the season, but even as the Butte Central boys' basketball team heads to Bozeman for the state tournament to face Hardin in the first round, their head coach is seeing changes.

The postseason, it seems, usually does this. The Maroons are young and for several of the players, it's the first time they've played meaningful minutes in these type of games.

The intensity is up and Kelly is seeing that they're learning to handle it well.

"This is a tough bunch of kids, that's what I love about them," Kelly said. "When you're in tournament play, it's a different level of pressure. Different kids respond to different ways to that.

"We've had some kids absolutely rise to the occasion when we need them."

One of those players has been Dylan Sestrich.

The 6-foot-3 junior guard didn't start until leading scorer Dan McCloskey transferred to Butte High in January, but still has played a critical role all season. Sestrich was part of the rotation before starting and has played in every game this season.

Against Ronan, during a loser-out game in the Western A Divisional, Sestrich was at his best. He scored 24 points on 7-of-10 shooting less than 12 hours after a heartbreaking semifinal defeat to Frenchtown.

The Maroons couldn't afford a letdown and he helped make sure they'd punch a ticket to state.

"I'm really proud of the way he's playing right now," Kelly said. "I've been saying all year that the sky is the limit for Dylan. He's got a lot of tools. He's kind of a tough guard because he's strong, big and can play point. He can play the one through the four if we need him to. 

"For him, it's like he's just playing with another level of confidence right now and he's doing it on a big stage."

Sestrich has been humble about the whole thing and attributes a lot of success to his improved defense. His shooting, which can occasionally be streaky, is a massive weapon when it's on.

There's both a perimeter and interior component to his offensive game and he's solid without the ball in his hands as well. He's played nearly 30 minutes per game in the divisional tournament and it'll be the same in Bozeman.

He's certainly not nervous about it.

"It's all about confidence," Sestrich said. "I just keep telling myself, 'you can play' and I've just kind of gone out there and let it fly."

The Maroons are hardly a one-man show and numerous players have the ability to lead the team in scoring on any specific night.

Sophomore guard Luke Heaphy has been strong for the Maroons all year, especially from behind the arc. Fellow sophomore's Braden Harrington and Jared Simkins are both strong options off the bench for Butte Central.

Jared's brother, Matt, starts and while he is battling a foot injury (he has not practiced this week), he can also be a force in the paint. Starting forward Cade Holter has gotten better as the season has gone on and feels that he's been able to find his role better.

They're all in for a tough task this weekend. Central draws Hardin in the first round of the tournament and the Bulldogs come in 19-1. A high tempo, fast paced team, it'll be a challenge for the Maroons.

Hardin averages 73 points per game while allowing just around 53. 

"They're a great team and we know they're going to try and get out and run," Holter said. "They crash the boards harder than anyone I've ever seen, so we're gonna have to box out.

"We're gonna have to play solid defense and if we take control of the ball, that'll be the difference maker."

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Jordan Hansen covers prep and Frontier Conference sports for the Montana Standard. Shoot him an email at Jordan.Hansen@406mtsports.com or give him a shout on Twitter @jordyhansen.

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