The Choteau High School Bulldogs lost their first game of the season to conference foe Shelby, falling 71-47, on the road Jan. 10. They bounced back on Jan. 11 at home, defeating Cut Bank, 77-64.
Choteau is now 3-1 in conference and 7-1 overall. This week the boys are on the road as CHS is hosting the massive two-day Choteau Classic wrestling tournament. On Friday, Choteau will travel to Fairfield, where the junior varsity team will play at 4:30 p.m. and the varsity at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, Choteau will travel to Rocky Boy, where the JV will play at 2:30 p.m. and the varsity at 5:30 p.m.
Coach Austin Schilling on Monday said practice this week will focus on defense as he and assistant coach Zane Hanusa work with the team to improve players’ ability to transition quickly from offense to defense to prevent either Fairfield or Rocky Boy from running the court and getting off easy shots.
Schilling said Fairfield is very good at quickly transitioning from defense to offense and playing a very fast-paced offense, led by all-around standout athlete Keeley Bake. “If we don’t get our guys back, they’ll run us to death,” Schilling said.
He expects defensive rebounding to be a huge part of both games this week, and said the Choteau boys will be working to improve their defensive rebounding so they can limit Rocky Boy and Fairfield’s offensive shot attempts.
To prepare for Rocky Boy, Schilling said, his team will focus on strategies that control Joe Demontiney, one of the team’s best shooters, while at the same time keeping up pressure on the ball and controlling the pace of the game.
In the road game at Shelby, Choteau struggled to contain sophomore Rhett Reynolds, who is 6-foot-8 and who wreaked havoc on Choteau’s defense, scoring 41 points alone.
Shelby’s boys, who had a big height advantage over Choteau, outscored the Bulldogs in every quarter, leading 15-10 after the first period, 33-29, at halftime and then came up with a huge third quarter, outscoring Choteau 19 to 8, to lead 52-37 going into the final period.
Choteau post Johnny Rappold powered his way through the Shelby defenders to put up 25 points and lead the team in scoring. The boys made 56% of their free-throws.
Schilling said the Choteau boys played Shelby closely in the first half of the game, only down two baskets at halftime, but the third quarter did not go well. They adjusted their defense of Reynolds, who then moved to the outside and nailed several two-point shots and one three. “He was making everything,” Schilling said.
Choteau senior Acton Snyder, who at 6-foot-2 is the team’s tallest player, got into foul trouble and couldn’t be as aggressive against Reynolds, and Choteau just went stone cold in shooting during the third quarter and fourth quarter.
Schilling said in hindsight, he sees some adjustments he could have made, and said he will have a better plan for the team’s next matchup with Shelby at home on Feb. 7.
He noted that two of Choteau’s players, Keegan Thomas and Tony Daley, came in off the bench and made some big shots to keep Choteau in the game.
At home last Saturday, Choteau took an 18-13 lead after the first quarter, playing tough defense and forcing a number of Cut Bank turnovers on steals and bad passes, and also hitting the boards hard, coming up with a lot of defensive rebounds.
Choteau had five players in double digits: Rappold and Kolby Kovatch with 19 each, Acton Snyder with 12, Kyler Crabtree with 13 and Tony Daley with 10.
Choteau led, 40-33, at halftime, and staved off a Cut Bank rally in the third quarter to come up with the solid, 77-64, conference win.
Schilling said the team had prepared well to guard Devin Gobert and Hayden Harrell closely and did a good job of executing that plan.
“I was glad that we came back and played better against Cut Bank,” Schilling said, adding that the boys played with confidence and spread out the scoring.
Choteau 10-19-8-10 — 47
Shelby 15-18-19-19 — 71
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 1 0/1 2, Johnny Rappold 10 5/7 25, Tony Daley 3 0/0 7, Kolby Kovatch 3 0/1 7, Keegan Thomas 2 0/0 6. Totals: 19 5/9.
Shelby — Logan Leck 3 2/2 8, Tanner Watson 0 1/2 1, Rhett Reynolds 18 4/5 41, Tanner Parsons 4 3/7 11, Taylor Parsons 3 0/0 7, Kolby Lohr 0 2/2 2, Garett Hanson 0 1/2 1. Totals: 28 13/20.
Fouls: Choteau 15, Shelby 9. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Daley, Kovatch, Thomas 2, Reynolds, Taylor Parsons.
Choteau 18-22-14-23 — 77
Cut Bank 13-20-13-18 — 64
Choteau — Acton Snyder 6 0/0 12, Kyler Crabtree 4 5/5 13, Johnny Rappold 8 3/5 19, Brady Armstrong 1 0/0 2, Tony Daley 3 2/2 10, Oliver Jorden 1 0/0 2, Kolby Kovatch 6 3/3 19. Totals: 29 13/15.
Cut Bank — Devin Gobert 8 3/4 22, Hayden Harrell 7 5/7 21, Dawson Vasboe 1 0/0 3, Coalter Littrell 5 2/3 12, Cody Racki 3 0/2 6. Totals: 24 10/16.
Fouls: Choteau 14, Cut Bank 12. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Daley 2, Kovatch 4, Gobert 3, Harrell 2, Vasboe.