Heart Butte basketball coach Kellen Hall reports the Warriors’ first contest of 2021 came after a “bare bones” set of practices and a relatively small number of athletes turning out for the sport.

“It’s been a tough go,” Coach Hall said. “Just 11 turned out so we’ve only got one team this year. And now we only have 10 since one player is out with a knee injury.”

The coach said he’s only managed four practices where he’s been able to field a five-on-five contest since Dec. 7. “Some days I get seven or eight, and once I only had six show up,” he said. “It’s been hard to simulate game-style practices so that’s been the challenge.”

While turnout numbers were small, Coach Hall doesn’t think the pandemic is responsible. He said smaller Class C schools normally experience variation in turnout numbers simply due to fewer students being enrolled and interest levels in sports changing from class to class.

Nevertheless, Hall is happy with a core group of veteran players who are appearing on the court. He noted two seniors, Dillon Kipp and Cameron Falcon, who were both rated All-Conference last year as two-thirds of the leadership. The remaining part of the triad goes to Jordan Calf Looking who transferred from Browning and whose skills Hall says will help the team.

As for the rest of the Warriors, Hall says their talent is deep. “All 10 will be seeing varsity action, some more than others, but I have confidence in every one of them,” he said. “They just have to have as much confidence in themselves as I do in them.”

The Warriors’ first game came on Saturday, Jan. 2, just inches into the New Year, as they hosted Cascade at the Heart Butte High School gym. All the rules associated with the Blackfeet Tribe’s Ordinance 121 were followed, Hall said. There were no fans, and masks were worn by everyone, including coaches, cheerleaders, administrators and everyone else. The players themselves wore masks at all times except when actually playing, Hall said.

The Warriors led in every quarter of the game, going up by 15 points in the first quarter and retaining most of that lead throughout the game.

“The biggest surprise from Cascade was a foreign exchange student they had from France,” Coach Hall said. “He was a really good player, and it really changed the dynamics of how they play.”

Cascade shot 21 free throws compared to only three from Heart Butte. “We relied on jump shots too much, but the press worked really good. We just had to get the rust off,” Hall said.

With a 73-61 win under their belts, Heart Butte’s leading scorer was Jordan Calf Looking at 34 points. Cameron Falcon hit for 18; Thomas Young Running Crane had nine; Dillon Kipp scored eight; and Joe Murray had four points.  

While this is an exceptional season in so many ways, Coach Hall said he has enjoyed the support of Heart Butte Schools Administration in making the season happen.

“It’s been a breeze working with [Superintendent] Mike Tatsey,” he said, “and with our Athletic Director, Joe Aimsback. They keep us in line with the policies, and it’s good working together.”

This week, the Warriors travel to Power on Friday, Jan. 8, where the JV girls start at 3 p.m., the varsity girls at 4:30 and the varsity boys play at 6 p.m.

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