The Choteau High School boys basketball team ended the season, 19-7, at the Northern B divisional tournament in Shelby, taking fourth place in a tough loss, 56-50, to District 1B foe Shelby in the consolation game.
Poplar, the District 2B champ, won the tournament, defeating Rocky Boy, 68-58, in the championship game.
Choteau went 2-2 in the tournament, losing to Wolf Point and Shelby and defeating Malta and Fairfield.
Coach Matt Luedtke on Monday said the story of the weekend was mostly about missed opportunities as the Bulldogs were competitive in every game they played and had their chances to win.
Against Wolf Point, he said, the boys just didn’t take care of the ball in the opening game. The Wolves’ full court press the entire game contributed to 30 turnovers — a statistic that tells the tale of the 68-63 loss, even though the Dawgs rallied late in the fourth quarter.
That opening round loss put Choteau into loser-out action on Friday, where they faced Malta, the number four seed from District 2B. “I was really, really proud of the boys for turning around and picking themselves up,” Luedtke said.
The boys fought hard,” he said, in the win over Malta. They next faced the Fairfield Eagles. Earlier in the season, Fairfield had beaten Choteau two times out of three contests.
The Bulldogs, who trailed by as many as nine at one point, fought back to defeat Fairfield, 70-60, in the Saturday morning game. The Eagles shot 45.7 percent from the field, 27.8 percent from the three-point line and made 72.2 percent of their free throws.
Choteau’s leading scorer was junior Kolby Kovatch who put up 24 points, including four three-point shots that came at key times in the contest. The Bulldogs shot 41.8 percent from the field, 36.8 from the three-point line and made 65.4 percent of their free throws. Choteau had eight turnovers in the contest and Fairfield had 14. Choteau had 26 total rebounds and Fairfield had 29. Choteau's leading rebounder was Kovatch.
Choteau and Fairfield played point for point through the first quarter and a half, when Sayer Patton with 4:51 on the clock went to the bench with three fouls. Choteau scored only three points in the rest of the first half and Fairfield led, 37-29, at halftime.
In the third quarter, with Patton back on the floor, the Bulldogs put together a scoring drive to come back and then take the lead, 44-43, midway through the third quarter. Fairfield answered and got the lead back to go into the fourth quarter, up 49-46.
Choteau's fourth quarter scoring was the Bulldogs’ best of the game as they put up 24 points and limited Fairfield to just 11. Choteau did a great job of defensive rebounding as the Eagles just couldn't get their shots to drop. The Eagles were zero for seven tries from the three-point line in the second half.
Luedtke said the Choteau boys played tough, gritty defense while Patton was out of this game, and then worked together well on offense to engineer the win with every one of Choteau’s players contributing.
That win put Choteau in the consolation game with Shelby, a team they had beaten twice and lost to once earlier in the season. The winner of the consolation game advances to the state tournament.
“They showed a lot of character and toughness and grit to get to that game,” Luedtke said of his team.
Shelby rocketed out to an early lead on the strength of three-point shooting, up 21-11 at the end of the first quarter. The Coyotes used their height advantage to limit Choteau’s open shots and come up with 22 defensive rebounds, compared to Choteau’s 20. The Coyotes led 33-29 at the half.
In the third quarter, Choteau still struggled to get shots to drop, putting up their first points of the quarter with just 2:03 left. Shelby led, 44-35, going into the final stanza.
Shelby's offense finally cooled down and Choteau put together a run to come within one point of Shelby, getting big points from Patton, Trenton Durocher and Kovatch to make the score 44-45 with 4:36 left to play. That was as close as the Bulldogs would come to Shelby. The Bulldogs just couldn’t string together enough unanswered points to take the lead. In the final quarter, the Dawgs were forced to foul to stop the clock and lost, 56-50.
Shelby shot 42.2 percent from the field, 41.2 percent from the three-point line and made 57.9 percent of their free throws in a game in which very few fouls were called. Choteau shot 37 percent from the field, 26.7 percent from the three-point arc and made 33.3 percent of their free throws. Patton led the team in scoring with 19 points and Kyler Crabtree put up 16 points.
Luedtke said Shelby shot the ball very well and Choteau almost pulled off a come-back to win it. “I told the boys in the locker room afterward that we just ran out of the magic,” he said.
Patton, who typically scores in the high 20s per game only had 19 points, and that was largely because he hurt his knee in the first half, Luedtke said, and was playing gingerly after that because of the injury. Patton has signed with Carroll College to play basketball there next year.
Luedtke said the Choteau boys played very hard on defense, limiting Shelby to 56 points, but just couldn’t get their offense clicking.
“I’m really proud of this team,” he said, adding that a 19-7 season record is nothing to be ashamed of. “We got beaten by teams that were pretty dang good,” he said.
At the end of the day, Luedtke said, this year’s team was streaky on offense — but that is something the returning players can work on in the off season. If they spend time in open gym practicing their shots, he said, they’ll gain confidence and consistency that will help them out big time next season.
This was the last high school game for Choteau seniors Patton, Garret Yeager, and Durocher, who all started and Shane Willekes and Ben Weisner, who were subs.
“I was proud of the five seniors,” Luedtke said, noting that Weisner didn’t get much playing time but had a positive attitude and always supported his teammates. “I’m going to miss those seniors. They are great kids,” he asid.
Luedtke said he and the boys were disappointed at not getting a shot in the state tournament, but he also realizes that’s a rare thing. Choteau has only made it to the state tournament three times since 1997, he said.
“I’m just so lucky to be the head coach here because the kids are such good kids,” Luedtke said, choking up. “I’m really proud of these kids because they’ve improved so much over their careers.”
Rocky Boy 52 - Malta 39
Wolf Point 12-24-5-27 — 68
Choteau 13-11-20-19 — 63
Wolf Point — Logan Heser 2 7/10 11, Nick Page 2 1/2 5, Lance St. Germaine 8 7/10 26, Joseph Williamson 10 0/0 22, Treyton Lilley 0 2/4 2, James Lien 0 1/2 1, Antone Manning 0 1/4 1. Totals: 22 19/32.
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 1 1/1 3, Trenton Durocher 1 3/4 5, Sayer Patton 12 3/4 31, Garret Yeager 0 0/2 0, Kolby Kovatch 2 2/4 7, Acton Snyder 5 0/0 10, Shane Willekes 2 0/0 5, Johnny Rappold 1 0/0 2. Totals: 24 9/15.
Fouls: Choteau 21, Wolf Point 14. Fouled out: Kovatch. Three-point goals: St. Germaine 3, Williamson 2, Patton 4, Kovatch, Willekes.
Poplar 52 - Shelby 45
Fairfield 68 - Glasgow 40
Choteau 21-17-23-19 — 80
Malta 13-20-16-15 — 64 (lo)
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 3 7/7 14, Johnny Rappold 1 0/0 2, Trenton Durocher 0 2/4 2, Shane Willekes 1 0/0 3, Sayer Patton 11 8/12 32, Garret Yeager 2 0/0 4, Kolby Kovatch 7 3/5 23. Totals: 25 20/28.
Malta — Kooper Oxarart 5 1/2 16, Kevin Henry 3 5/10 14, Ben Costin 2 3/4 7, Cormac Benn 2 0/0 4, Tanner Smith 5 5/7 15, Kaden Bergos 1 0/0 2, Pierce Mortenson 1 1/1 3, Connor Tuss 1 0/0 3. Totals: 20 15/24.
Fouls: Choteau 22, Malta 20. Technical fouls: Costin. Fouled out: Crabtree, Yeager. Three-point goals: Crabtree, Willekes, Patton 2, Kovatch 6, Oxarart 5, Henry 3.
Shelby 73 - Glasgow 63 (lo)
Rocky Boy 65 - Wolf Point 61
Poplar 70 - Fairfield 68
Shelby 59 - Wolf Point 51 (lo)
Choteau 19-10-17-24 — 70
Fairfield 18-19-12-11 — 60 (lo)
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 2 2/5 7, Trenton Durocher 1 2/2 4, Sayer Patton 8 5/7 22, Garret Yeager 0 0/2 0, Kolby Kovatch 8 4/5 24, Johnny Rappold 2 0/1 4, Acton Snyder 1 4/4 7, Shane Willekes 1 0/0 2. Totals 23 17/26.
Fairfield — Keeley Bake 7 1/1 17, Ryder Meyer 2 2/2 7, Dawson Allen 8 3/4 19, Derek Simmons 0 1/2 1, Conor Murray 1 0/2 2, Gavin Mills 2 0/0 6, Kaelob Flores 1 6/7 8. Totals: 21 13/18.
Total fouls: Choteau 17, Fairfield 24. Fouled out: Simmons. Three-point goals: Crabtree, Patton, Kovatch 4, Snyder, Bake 2, Meyer, Mills 2.
Choteau 11-18-6-15 — 50
Shelby 21-12-11-12 — 56 (3rd)
Choteau — Kyler Crabtree 6 0/2 16, Trenton Durocher 3 0/0 6, Sayer Patton 7 2/4 19, Garret Yeager 2 0/0 4, Kolby Kovatch 2 0/0 5. Totals: 20 2/6.
Shelby — Tucker Tustian 2 1/3 7, Rhett Reynolds 4 5/9 14, Damon Irvin 2 1/1 6, Tanner Parsons 4 0/0 10, Logan Leck 5 4/6 15, Ryan VanTine 2 0/0 4. Totals: 19 11/19.
Fouls: Choteau 12, Shelby 9. Fouled out: none. Three-point goals: Crabtree 4, Patton 3, Kovatch, Tustian 2, Reynolds, Irvin, Parsons 2, Leck.
Poplar 68 - Rocky Boy 58