The Choteau High School boys basketball team improved to 6-0 on the season and 2-0 in conference after a narrow win over Conrad and a solid win over Jefferson County High School from Boulder last week.
This week, the Bulldogs will travel to Shelby on Jan. 10 and will host Cut Bank on Jan. 11 in a pair of conference games. The Choteau junior varsity team will play at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity team at 7:30 p.m. in Shelby.
At home against Cut Bank, the boys JV team will play at 2:30 p.m. and the varsity team at 5:30 p.m.
Coach Austin Schilling on Monday said he expects these two games to be highly competitive and the Choteau boys will work in practice this week to prepare for two athletic teams. Shelby’s five starters are all well over six feet tall, Schilling said, and with their height and length they are going to be difficult to defend and will likely run a 1-3-1 defense against Choteau and pressure the ball.
Cut Bank has two really good guards and two 6-foot-plus inside players whom Choteau will have to control to stay in the game.
The boys will have to take care of the ball, be patient on their offense and make sure their inside game is working well and is supported by perimeter shooting.
Schilling said he will expect seniors Johnny Rappold and Acton Snyder with help from their teammates to find a way around those big defenders both nights to make sure Choteau has a strong inside game.
He said Choteau’s lead scorers Rappold, Snyder, Kolby Kovatch and Kyler Crabtree are doing a good job this year of passing the offense around and making sure that whichever boys are shooting well are getting the shots, and that Rappold has become a great team leader with his inside game.
Choteau’s boys tend to shoot the ball better when they are attacking the basket, Schilling said and when that inside game is clicking, often outside shots become open too.
Last week at Conrad, Choteau struggled a little coming off the Christmas break and getting shots to drop in the Conrad High School gym. Choteau trailed, 13-15, at the end of the first quarter but Kovatch had a huge second quarter, hitting three three-pointers and making two of three freethrows to help Choteau outscore Conrad, 22-13, and give the Choteau boys a 35-28 halftime lead.
The mojo totally left the team, however, in the third quarter as none of Choteau’s shooters could get the ball to drop. The Bulldogs scored only five points (two two-point shots and one free throw) the whole quarter while Conrad put up 16 points.
Conrad led, 44-40, going into the fourth quarter as the teams battled point for point. The Bulldogs outscored Conrad, 19 to 14, in the fourth quarter for the 59-58 win that came down to free-throw shooting. While the Choteau boys only made nine of their 16 free-throw tries, the timing was perfect.
With only seconds on the clock, Conrad led, 58-57. A Conrad shooter’s free-throw attempt bounced off the rim, and Crabtree grabbed the rebound and drove down the court for a layup, drawing a shooting foul. He went to the line with 00:00.3 seconds left on the clock and sank both shots, giving Choteau the 59-58 win as the clock ran out. Crabtree had 17 points on the night. Kovatch led the team in scoring with 20 points, including five three-pointers, and Rappold had 14.
Schilling said the Choteau boys had a plethora of opportunities to take a decisive lead in the game and estimated the boys probably missed 10 to 15 layups.
He said he was pleased that the boys never lost their resolve and played hard to come up with the win.
Last Saturday against the Jefferson County High School Panthers, Jefferson’s big inside shooter, 6-foot-6 Derek Nygaard played tough defense, and 6-foot-2 outside and outside shooter Avery Stiles wreaked havoc on the score board. Stiles put up 21 points in the game, including seven three pointers.
Choteau trailed, 15-20, at the end of the first quarter and was down, 37-30, at halftime. They still trailed, 43-47, at the end of the third quarter, but they rallied in the fourth quarter and outscored Jefferson, 22-10, for the 65-57 win. Rappold tallied 20 points on the night with 11 coming in the fourth quarter. Snyder, who didn’t score a point against Conrad, had 16 against Jefferson and Kovatch had 13 in the win.
Schilling said Choteau has now come from behind in the second half against Thompson Falls and Boulder to engineer wins. “We showed some grit,” he said. “I’m just proud of the kids.”
Choteau 13-22-5-19 — 59
Conrad 15-13-16-14 — 58
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 7 2/3 17, Johnny Rappold 6 2/8 14, Tony Daley 1 1/2 3, Oliver Jorden 2 1/2 5, Kolby Kovatch 6 3/5 20. Totals: 22 9/22.
Conrad — Jarek Shepherd 3 0/0 9, Caden Huntsinger 6 1/5 13, Brady Bokma 2 0/0 6, Blaise ArrowtopKnot 1 0/0 2, Ethan Wittmier 5 0/1 10, Kade Harwood 7 4/9 18. Totals: 24 5/15.
Fouls: Choteau 17, Conrad 15. Fouled out: Rappold. Three-point goals: Crabtree, Kovatch 5, Shepherd 3, Bokma 2.
Choteau 15-15-13-22 — 65
Jefferson 20-17-10-10 — 57
Choteau — Acton Snyder 5 4/6 16, Kyler Crabtree 2 2/2 6, Johnny Rappold 7 6/12 20, Tony Daley 2 3/6 7, Oliver Jorden 1 0/0 3, Kolby Kovatch 3 4/5 13. Totals: 20 19/25.
Jefferson — Braden Morris 4 0/0 9, Jaxon Yanzick 2 0/0 5, Avery Stiles 7 0/2 21, Tyler Harrington 1 0/0 2, Josiah Williams 1 0/0 2, Trent McMaster 5 2/2 14, Derek Nygaard 2 0/2 4. Totals: 22 2/6.
Fouls: Choteau 10, Jefferson 20. Fouled out: Yanzick. Three-point goals: Snyder 2, Jorden, Kovatch 3, Morris, Yanzick, Stiles 7, McMaster 2.