BUTTE — Can Dillon make it three in a row?
It certainly won’t be easy for the winners of the last two Class A boys basketball championships. The Beavers lost Tanner Haverfield and Troy Andersen to graduation, easily two of their best players.
Haverfield is now a freshman at Montana Western, playing basketball, and Andersen took his talents to the Montana State football team. That said, there could be a new budding star waiting in the wings – Tanner’s younger brother, Michael, a junior.
The younger Haverfield was honorable mention all-state a year ago.
The Beavers have been in the state championship four years in a row and have enjoyed a long run of success. But even though Dillon has gone 46-2 over the past two seasons, it's hardly the only threat to take the Class A crown.
Enter Billings Central.
The Rams have been the runner-up the past two seasons. While they only return one starter, it’s an important one – junior Chrishon Dixon, who was second on the team in points (12.2) and rebounds (6.1).
Lewistown returns two of the best players in Class A in Tanner Trafton and Jaden Graham. Graham is a sharpshooter and hit 41 percent of his 3-pointers last season on his way to averaging 15.2 points and 6.1 rebounds a game. Trafton was a beast on the boards as well, hauling in 8.3 rebounds while averaging 13.2 points from his forward spot.
The Eagles finished 11-7 during last year’s regular season, but failed to make the state tournament. It was their first winning record since 2008 and they’ll be looking for a lot more this season.
Polson and Belgrade took third and fourth last season. It was Polson’s second-straight third-place finish, though the team will have plenty to replace. The Pirates lost all-conference performers Matthew Rensvold and Tanner Wilson to the Montana football team.
Some other teams to watch?
Livingston, Hardin and Hamilton.
Hardin lost three seniors after making the state tournament. Famous Lefthand will be set to lead the Bulldogs after averaging 11.7 points and just over four rebounds per game last season.
The Bulldogs also get back David Evans, a second-team all-conference player.
Hardin lost its two state tournament games by a combined six points – 60-55 to Dillon in the first round and 68-67 to eventual fourth-place finisher Belgrade in the first consolation game.
Hamilton will be attempting to make its third straight state tournament appearance. Livingston will be trying to get back to the tournament for the first time in several years.