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Butte Central boys head into uncertain season as defending co-champions

Brodie Kelly
Posted at 11:16 AM, Dec 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-19 17:32:11-05

BUTTE -- The Butte Central boys basketball team has spent most of 2020 asking "What if?"

The Maroons can now begin wondering "What's next?"

Nine months after Central's State A championship game against Hardin was jettisoned due to the first coronavirus cases reaching Montana, the Maroons have begun practicing for their upcoming season.

With those first drills, Central officially turned the page on what was a disappointing ending to its run at last year's state tournament.

"It's great to practice and play," said Bryan Holland, one of three seniors on Central's roster, the other two being Egan Lester and Isaac Sholey. "You never know when your last day might be so we want to take advantage of every day we get. Just can't wait to get back on the floor and get playing games."

As a junior, Holland saw limited action behind a core of nine seniors that powered Central to the cusp of its first title since 1992. The Maroons opened the state tournament with a first-round stunner, toppling defending champion Billings Central before rolling past Browning in the semifinals to set up a showdown against powerhouse Hardin for all the marbles.

But shortly after the conclusion of the semis, the Montana High School Association announced that it was canceling all eight state championships.

Holland, as well as the other returning players from last year's squad, has had plenty of time to reflect and come to terms with how things ended.

"I'm at peace with it," Holland said. "We had a lot of fun and it's good to look back on the memories I made with those guys."

With games not slated to begin until 2021, Central coach Brodie Kelly already knows that this season is going to look different, especially after the Maroons' football season was hampered by COVID-19 postponements and cancellations.

"It's already been interesting," Kelly said. "Just the way that the football season went and having the extra time here between seasons."

The months following the championship cancellation were filled with frustration for Kelly and his team. But as the scope of the coronavirus pandemic became more evident, he was able to more easily accept what had happened and why.

"When it became clear what we were dealing with across the world, it started to make more sense for us," Kelly said.

The Central boys are slated to open their season on Jan. 7 with a non-conference game at Livingston.