BUTTE — The Knights kept their undefeated season alive with a win in the Mining City.
Missoula Hellgate took down Butte 81-46 to improve to 5-0 in conference play, and 9-0 overall as the senior trio of Rollie Worster, Abe Johnson and Cam LaRance combined for 52 points at Ross J. Richardson Memorial Gym.
Knights head coach Jeff Hays credited his team for taking care of business early and setting the tone for the contest in the first quarter, while also playing with the same passion after the game was all but decided late.
“We got out to a good start,” Hays said. “We played very well and efficient in the first quarter and I was really pleased with that. I thought we played solid throughout, and I was pleased with the team spirit at the end. We had some kids come in and get some offensive rebounds and get second-chance opportunities.”
Butte was blitzed by Hellgate’s offense, as the Knights jumped out to a 28-3 lead by the end of the first quarter, leaving little chance of a comeback from the Bulldogs.
While Butte was able to improve as the game went on, tying Hellgate 14-14 in the second quarter, the Knights continued to show why they are ranked as the best team in the state.
Butte head coach Matt Luedtke credited Hays’ squad, highlighting the 6’8” Johnson for being a disruptive presence in the Bulldogs’ efforts.
“There’s a reason why they’re the number one team in the state,” Luedtke said. “They’re phenomenal… [Johnson] is so good and works so hard and is so athletic. I think we were a little intimidated by him tonight, guys didn’t want to go inside the three-point line.”
Hellgate saw out the remainder of the contest, outscoring the Bulldogs 39-29 before the final buzzer as both team’s starters began to be pulled from the contest.
Utah State-commit Worster led the game with 19 points, and Hays explained that a big reason why his team is consistently winning is by following the example that the senior sets every day.
“This is not an easy program to practice in day-by-day,” Hays said. “It really helps when [Worster], our best player, he doesn’t take a day off, he doesn’t take a drill off. When you have ability and talent, but also that leadership, that model for guys to follow, it makes it a lot easier. He sets the tone, and the other guys follow.”
Worster was followed by 17 from Johnson and 16 from LaRance. Junior guard Beckett Arthur also broke double-digits for the Knights, making four treys for 12 points.
For the Bulldogs, sophomore Kenley Leary hit five three-point efforts, finishing at 17 points and the team’s top scorer. Senior Andrew Booth and junior Blake Drakos hit a pair of threes themselves, each finishing with six points.
Luedtke said his team can learn a lesson from a decisive loss from Hellgate, and hopes to play them better when the Bulldogs and Knights meet again on Feb. 22.
“You learn more when you lose than when you win,” Luedtke said. “We’re still trying to learn how to compete and how to play hard all the time… You need to play teams like that in order to find out what level we have to get to.”
Butte next prepares for a road trip to Missoula Big Sky on Jan. 30, while Hellgate takes on the Eagles at Big Sky on Jan. 28.