Alone among basketball tournaments nationwide, Montana’s state tournaments went on as planned up until the first four cases of Coronavirus were reported on Friday, March 13. That gave the Runnin’ Indians time to rack up two games, over-powering the Locomotives on Thursday, March 12, 83-59. Going into the semifinals on Friday, longtime arch rival Butte Central found the bucket while Browning’s percentages were low, handing the Indians a 66-50 defeat and setting them up for a loser-out game on Saturday morning.
But it was not to be.
“It was a weird deal,” Coach Dan Connelly said. “I’ve never been associated with basketball where all at once they turned the lights out. It was a historic event.” The coach said he thinks nothing similar happened in Montana since they canceled the state tournament in World War II.
Nevertheless, all the teams came home with stories to tell. In Browning’s opener, Coach Connelly noted, “We had five days to prepare, and they executed our plays to perfection. We knew Laurel is a power team with one kid at 6 foot 7 and two guards who were their scorers, so we keyed in on them.” In addition, the coach noticed Laurel seemed to tire easily, so they capitalized on that weakness, sending their tall player to the bench the entire fourth quarter.
Riley Spoonhunter led the way with 19 points, followed by Blayne DeRoche with 17, Chris Reevis 13, Justin Burd 12, Latrell Bullchild six, Riley Cromwell five, Cody Carlson four, Luke Juneau three and Joe Bullshoe with a point. Spoonhunter nearly achieved a triple double, scoring 19 with 12 assists and eight rebounds.
The next day’s action was a different story against Butte Central. “We shot 50 shots,” Coach Connelly said. “We had some good looks and missed some easy ones, but Butte’s physical – my guys were sore after the game – so instead of focusing on executing the plays they were focused getting them back. Butte has five or 10 seniors, plus we know each other so well. They know how to beat our press.”
Riley Spoonhunter led again with 24 points, followed by Blayne DeRoche with 10, Deion Mad Plume five, Joe Bullshoe four, Jessie Carlson and Latrell Bullchild two, and Cody Carlson with a point.
“What I want to get across is I’m proud of this group. It was just a sad day, and I’m sorry for the seniors. They took it hard, but I told them this is a life and death situation we’re caught up in; you have to think about the elders. We would probably have made it to the consolation championship, but it is what it is. This was the con-summate team. They really played together.”