The Choteau High School boys and girls basketball ball teams will open their season this week, playing a pair of nonconference games at home on Friday and Saturday, Dec. 13-14, with all games in the high school gym.
On Friday, the Choteau teams will play Eureka with games scheduled as follows: JV girls at 3 p.m, JV boys at 4:30 p.m., varsity girls at 6 p.m., and varsity boys at 7:30 p.m.
On Saturday, the teams will play Thompson falls with JV girls at 10 a.m., JV boys at 11:30 a.m., varsity girls at 1 p.m. and varsity boys at 2:30 p.m.
Choteau Public Schools teacher Austin Schilling is Choteau’s new boys basketball head coach. Schilling worked as an assistant coach under Matt Luedtke for several seasons. Zane Hanusa, a 2015 CHS graduate, who worked as a second assistant with Schilling and Luedtke and who played under Luedtke as a student, is the team’s new assistant coach.
Schilling on Monday said that 18 boys have gone out for basketball this winter, including eight seniors (Kyler Crabtree, Kolby Kovatch, John Rappold, Acton Snyder, Oliver Jorden, Gage Cummings, Keegan Thomas and Brady Armstrong); three juniors (Tony Daley, Jacob Brewster and Tommy James) three sophomores (Henry Bieler, Anthony Carlon and Sterling Stott) and four freshmen (Landon Jamison, Waylon Johnson, William Patterson and Cody Hunter).
Helping the team as managers are Bellamy Beadle, a sophomore, and Ella Peach, a freshman.
Schilling said practice started for both boys and girls teams on Nov. 21. He said the boys are working hard and have a great attitude. “We’ve been trying to do some different things so it’s been a little bit of a learning curve,” he said, adding that he is pleased with the improvement the boys have shown with each week of practice.
The boys are excited to get out on the court and play a real game, he said, and this week’s games will give the coaches a good idea of areas that are working well and skills that will need to be changed or improved upon.
Choteau defeated both of these teams in the season opener last year, but Eureka, which just won the state football championship will bring a strong, physical team that played very good defense last season.
Thompson Falls was a very young team last season and they now have a lot more varsity experience, the coach said.
Choteau’s starting five for this weekend will all be seniors: Crabtree, Kovatch, Snyder, Rappold and Jorden. Crabtree and Kovatch have both been starters for the past three seasons. Snyder, Rappold and Jorden will be starters for the first time this season but came in off the bench routinely to play in varsity games last year.
Schilling said Snyder at about 6-3 is the team’s tallest player, but all of the starters are quick and their offense will revolve around a quick start, up tempo play.
Defensively, the coach said, the boys are working on a ways they can do a good job of getting rebounds even though they are under-sized compared to some of the other teams in the tough Northern Division District 1 B. The other teams in the division are: Great Falls Central Catholic, Conrad, Shelby, Fairfield, Rocky Boy and Cut Bank.
Schilling said the boys want to get off to a strong start in their four games before the Christmas break. They know that they need to work hard and communicate well as they play, he said, adding that the seniors are being great leaders for the team.
The varsity squad is playing without senior Bryce Gramm, who had planned to play but re-injured his shoulder during the football season and had to have surgery that is sidelining him for the whole season.
Coach Carissa Jenkins is the new head coach for the girls program. She served as the assistant coach under head coach Bill Durocher for several seasons. She will be assisted by Kevin Kovatch, a community member who has experience coaching in the area.
Fifteen girls have gone out for basketball including five seniors (Nicole Krone, Samara DeBruycker, Jessie Henderson, Lila Bradley and Tori Yeager); four juniors (Christine Funk, Abby McCollom, Savannah Durocher and Emma Jamison); three sophomores (Sadie Grove, Emma Gunderson and Ella Stott); and three freshmen (Ada Bieler, Asia Bouma and Maili Miller).
Managers for the team are Kelci Kovatch and Daisy Peters.
Coach Jenkins on Monday said Choteau is a guard-heavy team this year with a lot of quickness. The team mentality, she said, is playing strong on defense and rebounding, pressuring the ball more and taking care of the ball inside.
Jenkins said the varsity starters for this weekend will be Gunderson, Funk, Krone, Henderson and McCollom, who will get backup from DeBruycker, Bieler, Bradly, Yeager and Durocher. Two others, Grove and Stott, will also see some varsity playing time.
Last year, Choteau split with Eureka and Thompson Falls in a pair of close games, Jenkins said. She said last year the teams both had some bigger posts who played inside and both teams played a zone defense against Choteau.
She said her girls have an amazing attitude. “They are a great group of girls. They have great attitudes. They are extremely hard workers,” she said.
At the beginning of practice, she said, the girls went through an exercise where they defined the attributes that make up their team identity. Those attributes include selflessness, intensity and drive, confidence, character and integrity, she said, and they will strive at all time on the court and off the court to demonstrate those values.