Relentless Beavers hand Polson first loss

By 
J.P. Plutt
Wednesday, February 3, 2021
Inside

Dillon’s 6-5 senior Cole Truman works for a bucket in the paint against previously undefeated Polson in last Tuesday night’s battle of unbeatens. Dillon claimed a 54-46 win. Terri Haverfield photo

The Dillon Beavers opened the week with a win over previously undefeated Polson, 54-46, and capped it with a 57-48 win at Frenchtown to establish themselves as the top team in the Western A. At this point, only a COVID outbreak on the team could derail the Beavers from a state tourney run.

“Overall, it was a hard fought, athletic, tough game,” said Dillon coach Terry Thomas. “It was a lot of fun. I thought our players were tested, they were challenged on both ends of the floor. All of those different things that happened during the game gave our kids some experiences and some challenges in some things that we can learn from and grow.

“So that was important for us. Those were all learning experiences that we needed and that can help us become a better basketball team.”

The game didn’t start on a positive note for the Beavers as the visiting Pirates established an early 9-0 lead in the first quarter. Dillon battled back with 10 straight points keyed off their defense. Polson hit a bucket with 7.3 seconds to go in the first quarter to exit the frame with an 11-10 lead.

The slight interruption of Dillon’s run was not sustained and the Beavers cracked off another 10 point run to go up 20-11 with 1:51 to go in the first half. The teams played even down the stretch, and Dillon led 24-15 at the break.

“Defensively, I thought our kids did a great job,” said Thomas. We got off to a little bit of a slow start offensively, but with consistent pressure on defense throughout the course of the game, we were able to get turnovers and open court-type situations.”

In the third quarter, Dillon would take their biggest lead of the game, 38-21, at the 2:45 mark. Polson took a timeout and came out with a press and finished the quarter on a 7-0 run.

“Polson’s press in the third quarter got us off balance just a little bit and they made a run at us,” explained Thomas. The kids weathered the storm and got organized, and down the stretch they made big plays on both ends.”

Early in the fourth quarter, Polson was still riding momentum, cutting their 38-28 deficit at the end of the third quarter to 38-37 with 5:53 remaining in the game. Polson’s run from the third quarter into the fourth quarter and the single digit deficit totaled a 16-0 run.

Dillon gathered themselves and riding on the offensive output of seniors Jace Fitzgerald and Cole Truman, took a 16-9 run to the final buzzer for the 8 point victory.

Dillon’s weakness in the game came from both the 3-point line where they hit just 3 of 11, and the free throw line where they were successful on just 9 of 21 attempts.

The Beavers countered with a relentless rebounding effort fueled by junior Connor Curnow’s 10 boards and 9 from Fitzgerald. Dillon cleaned the glass to a 34-25 advantage. Extra possessions were also gained with a positive 10-14 turnover margin.

“Connor is such an aggressive player on the glass,” said Thomas. “The opportunities we get off his offensive rebounds are just precious.”

Truman led Dillon with 13 points, followed by Jonathan Kirkley, a junior who added 11. Kirkley, a high energy competitor, rounded out his stat line with 4 rebounds, and 3 steals and 6 assists, both team highs.

“The job that Kirkley is doing at the top of our 1-3-1 zone sets the tone for the entire defense,” Thomas explained. “Pressure and effort. He does it consistently and he doesn’t take a play off, and that is so important to our defensive chemistry.”

Dillon’s rotation showed 8 different players on the court at different times. In bigger blowouts, that number swells to 13 as players rotate in with the expectation that they are going to compete with relentless energy and unselfish team play.

“We feel really good about where we are at, knock on wood, and where we are headed,” said the Dillon coach of his 8-0 squad. “We feel like we can get a lot better.”

Saturday at Frenchtown, Dillon maintained the version of Dillon basketball that he enjoys watching. The Beavers improved to 5-0 in the Southwestern A standings with the convincing win.

“It was another really good road effort,” said the coach. “We had tremendous energy on both ends, guys were flying around, diving on the floor for loose balls, hitting the boards, taking charges. It was an excellent effort from start to finish.”

Dillon stretched a 5-point halftime lead to 14 by the end of the third quarter. Frenchtown knocked down 4 “wild threes” in the fourth quarter to keep the score respectable.

Dillon’s mix of 2-3 and 1-3-1 zone, as well as man to man defense and various presses successfully kept Frenchtown under control.

Senors Truman and Fitzgerald led the team on the offensive end, with 14 and 15 points, respectively. Fitzgerald has emerged as Dillon’s most accurate 3-point shooter, while Truman can score from all over the court but adds valuable defense, rebounding and scoring inside the paint.

Curnow continued to inspire his teammates with his unrelenting work ethic, snagging a team-high 14 rebounds and scoring 7 points.

Callahan Hoffman, a 6-7 post that comes in off the bench, continues to show improvement on a game to game basis. A confident shooter, Callahan hit both of his shots from inside and nailed his only three-point attempt for 7 points.

“Callahan really played well for us coming off the bench,” said Thomas. “He shot the ball real well. He’s got a nice form jump shot, he’s got nice balance and he’s got nice touch.”

Dillon brings their show to B.W. Lodge Gym this week hosting Stevensville Thursday and Butte Central Saturday.

POLSON 46, DILLON 54

Dillon scoring – Jonny Reiser 4, Daxon Graham 3, Eli Nourse 8, Cole Truman 13, Jonathan Kirkley 11, Connor Curnow 9, Callahan Hoffman 2, Jace Fitzgerald 6.

Halftime – 24-15, Dillon. Dillon threepointers (3-11) – Graham 1-1, Truman 0-2, Kirkley 1-2, Curnow 0-1, Fitzgerald 1-5. Rebounds (34) – Curnow 10, Fitzgerald 9. Steals (10) – Kirkley 3, Fitzgerald 3. Assists (7) – Kirkley 6. Turnovers (11). Blocks (7) – Truman 3, Hoffman 3.

DILLON 57, FRENCHTOWN 48

Dillon scoring – Jonny Reiser 4, Daxon Graham 2, Caden Hansen 0, Eli Nourse 6, Cole Truman 14, Jonathan Kirkley 2, Connor Curnow 7, Callahan Hoffman 7, Jace Fitzgerald 15.

Halftime – 25-20, Dillon. Dillon threepointers (5-16) – Graham 0-1, Nourse 0-3, Truman 0-1, Curnow 1-4, Hoffman 1-1, Fitzgerald 3-6. Rebounds (25) – Curnow 14. Steals (14) – Truman 5. Assists (9) – Nourse 5. Turnovers (19). Blocks (2) – Kirkley 1, Hoffman 1.

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