The Choteau High School boys basketball team, playing under a whole new coaching staff this season, lost two conference games last week, but showed big improvement as they head off on the road this week to play Rocky Boy on Jan. 15 and Fairfield on Jan. 16, another pair of District 1B games.
The boys are slated to play a junior varsity game at 3 p.m. and a varsity game at 4:30 p.m. at Rocky Boy. At Fairfield, JV action will start at 1 p.m. and varsity play at 4 p.m. With the team’s light numbers this year, JV games may only last two quarters.
Choteau is now 0-3 on the season and 0-2 in District 1B play, but Coach Kevin Kovatch said his team of 13 players are enthusiastic and hard working. Most importantly, he said, they are improving with every game as they learn the new expectations and playing style he and assistant coach Robert Dye expect.
Members of the team include seniors Jacob Brewster, Tony Daley and Thomas James. Of those three, only Daley had significant varsity experience. Other members are juniors, Henry Bieler, Sterling Stott, Will Patterson and Anthony Carlon; sophomores, Jacob Beattie, Cody Hunter and Landon Jamison; and freshmen, Bowen Rappold, Dillon Harrell and Rocky Allaire.
The team’s tallest players are Allaire at 6-2, Carlon at 6-1 and Hunter and James at 6 even, but only James routinely starts on the varsity team.
The rest of the team members are all 5-11 or shorter, and that lack of size makes a difference when playing at the high school level. Kovatch said the Choteau program is in a rebuilding mode this year and likely will be for the next two to three years. Several boys playing junior high basketball have some height and will bring more size to the game when they get into high school, he said.
In the meantime, the boys out this year are going to work very hard to hone their offensive and defensive skills to be competitive in the tough District 1B conference.
Choteau lost to Shelby on Jan. 8, 77-27, on the road and then, at home, lost to Cut Bank, 76-63, in a game that was much closer than the final score would suggest.
Shelby had a big height and experience edge over Choteau and was able to hamstring the Bulldogs’ ability to get and take good shots, and also harried them to force turnovers. Daley led the team in scoring with 12 points and was among six scorers. The team made 38% of their free throws.
Against Cut Bank, Choteau trailed, 18-12, at the end of the first quarter but had a huge second quarter, putting up 22 points to Cut Bank’s 11, to take the lead, 34-29, at halftime. In the third quarter, the Bulldogs scored 20 points and Cut Bank scored 26 to take the lead, 55-54, at the start of the fourth quarter.
Choteau battled and pulled ahead at the midway point in the quarter, but went a little cold on offense and Cut Bank pulled ahead for the win. Many of Cut Bank’s final points were scored at the charity stripe as the Choteau boys fouled to stop the clock in the final minutes of the game.
Choteau’s Bieler led the team in scoring with 26 points while Daley put up 24 and the boys made 75% of their free throws. They only went to the line eight times, however, compared to Cut Bank who went to the line 25 times, making 14 points.
Kovatch said Shelby is by far the best team in the District 1B conference, but he is confident that his team will be competitive with other teams. The Bulldogs should have been able to beat Cut Bank, he said, adding that a few key errors in the fourth quarter let the game slide away. He said the coaches will work to help the boys correct those problems this week as they prepare for two more tough games.
“I’m really impressed with the kids’ ability to adapt to a new system,” he said, adding that the mistakes he saw against Jefferson in the opening game of the season are already being fixed as Choteau goes forward. They are rebounding better, taking better care of the ball, and starting to play harder, more physical defense.
“My guys are going to compete,” he said, adding that he expects the boys to improve with every game. “We have a lot of bright spots,” he said, including that the boys all have great attitudes and are continuing to work hard even though they haven’t seen success on the scoreboard yet.
Choteau 5-6-11-5 — 27
Shelby 20-14-27-18 — 77
Choteau — Henry Bieler 2 3/5 7, Jacob Brewster 1 0/1 2, Jacob Beattie 1 0/2 2, Tony Daley 4 0/3 12, Rocky Allaire 0 2/2 2, Landon Jamison 1 0/0 2. Totals: 9 5/13.
Shelby — Logan Leck 13 0/0 33, Taylor Parsons 1 1/2 3, Randon Richman 3 0/0 6, Trenton Emerson 4 0/0 10, Kyle McDermott 2 0/0 5, Bryce Lee 1 0/0 2, Rhett Reynolds 10 0/0 20. Totals; 34 1/2.
Fouls: Choteau 7, Shelby 14. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Daley 4, Leck 7, Emerson 2, McDermott.
Choteau 12-22-20-9 — 63
Cut Bank 18-11-26-21 — 76
Choteau — Henry Bieler 10 1/2 26, Jacob Brewster 5 1/2 11, Tony Daley 7 4/4 24, Landon Jamison 1 0/0 2. Totals: 23 6/8.
Cut Bank — Tate Monroe 1 7/9 10, Tayron Burdeau 3 1/2 7, Robert Reagan 8 1/3 24, Dawson Vasboe 7 1/2 19, Dayne Barbie 4 1/2 9, William Sewell 1 3/7 5, Peyton St. Goddard 1 0/0 2. Totals: 25 14/25.
Fouls: Choteau 17, Cut Bank 13. Fouled out: Beattie. Three-point goals: Bieler 5, Daley 6, Monroe, Reagan 7, Vasboe 4.