BUTTE — Standing outside the training room, Tyge Yelenich had a grin on his face as he talked to Butte Central’s athletic trainer, Kari Williams.
The senior Butte Central guard, who tore his right ACL in the fall had finally got a chance in the final minutes against Dillon to get into the game. A big brace on over his knee and most of his leg, Yelenich moved fairly well against the Beavers for the relatively short amount of recovery time he’s had.
Williams half-joked she was worried every second he was on the court as the Maroons put the finishing touches on a 55-35 win over Dillon. The Butte Central girls’ team capped off the doubleheader with a 35-31 win as Kloie Thatcher dropped in 24 points. Brynley Fitzgerald had 26 for Dillon.
Yelenich, however, didn’t have a single point, or even a stat. He was just grateful to even be in the game, which he had a chance to start before being immediately pulled to a loud ovation.
“I’m super happy for him,” Maroon boys head coach Brodie Kelly said. “He’s a guy we would have loved to have this year and I’m happy he got on the floor.”
It was just a few, fleeting moments on the court but having the chance after such a frustrating injury obviously meant a lot to him, especially considering it was senior night. Yelenich is the lone senior on the Central boys’ team.
Yelenich was likely set to play increased minutes after appearing sparingly last season, but there was no bitterness in his voice about the injury. There was only admiration and gratitude for everyone around him.
“It was pretty awesome. All these guys, they put in the work to get me a couple minutes in the game and I couldn’t ask for anything more,” Yelenich said. “Kari, my parents, my friends, Coach Kelly. I really, really can’t thank them all enough.
“Everything’s paid off.”
Forward Cade Holter certainly did his part to get Yelenich in the game, as he dropped 21 points to lead all scorers. Central never trailed and started the game off on a 15-3 run as the Beavers struggled throughout the game.
Dillon, despite having a slight advantage in height, wasn’t able to stop the Maroons’ penetration toward the basket on numerous occasions. Getting the ball inside has been a hallmark of Central’s game so far this season, but its offense was exceptionally smooth in the win.
It was an important one, too. The Maroons will get a first-round bye in the district tournament with one more win.
Mentally it had its advantages as well. Central came in having lost three of its last four games — and two straight.
“They looked like themselves again,” Kelly said. “Confident, making plays. Maybe a little bit of it was finding our chemistry again, but whatever it was, this game is about players making plays.
“Our guys made plays tonight.”
The plays weren’t all on offense, either.
Kelly puts a lot of emphasis on defense and his team did not disappoint. Getting tipped and loose balls is something he’s mentioned numerous times this season as being an important part of winning games and his players were able to do that in a special game on Friday evening.
“It’s a huge game changer for us,” Kelly said. “When we’re making those plays, we’re really good. In the few games we were losing there, we weren’t winning the loose ball battles and tonight we did.”