BUTTE — Perhaps it's because he's been involved in Butte's city championship games as a player and coach for most of his life, but by this point Butte Central's Brodie Kelly truly views Tuesday's upcoming crosstown clash with Butte High at the Civic Center as "just another game."
If anything, it'll give the Maroons head boys basketball coach a chance to see how his reigning Class A championship squad stacks up against AA competition.
"We're gonna play a good basketball team on a big stage," said Kelly at a practice last week. "That's really the most important thing out of it is to help us prepare for what's to come next."
Sure, it may ultimately be a non-conference game, but the annual battle for bragging rights between Bulldogs and Maroons is steeped in Mining City history. Butte and Butte Central met every year for over a century, beginning in 1918.
It took covid compelling Class AA teams to cancel all non-conference competition in 2020 to see that century-long streak come to an end.
Crosstown returned in December 2021 where the Maroon boys routed Butte 65-37 for their second-straight victory over the Bulldogs. That runaway win was just one highlight in an unforgettable season for Central that culminated in Dougie Peoples draining a walk-off 3-pointer against Lewistown in the Class A championship.
Much like last year, Kelly will use Tuesday's game as a way to measure how is team is shaping up as it gets set to head into the final stretch of regular season play and then gear up for postseason tournaments.
"We know that (Butte High) has some really good players and they're well-coached," Kelly said. "It'll be a challenge and that's exactly what we want."
The Maroons are hoping to face some fierce competition in Butte High and the Bulldogs looked primed to deliver just that, coming off a 58-49 upset over Helena High on Saturday where Butte handed the Bengals their first conference loss of the season.
Fourth-year Butte head boys basketball coach Matt Luedtke is still searching for his first win over Central, but said ultimately this game is about the players and showcasing Mining City basketball.
"I feel like it's the same motivation as any other game," Luedtke said. "You know obviously crosstown is special because it's the team across town. But really it's more about the kids."
On the girls side, the Bulldogs posted a 52-40 win over the Maroons in their last meeting to extend their win streak in the series to four games. Like Luedtke, second-year Butte head girls basketball coach Bryan Arntson recognizes that this game is about more than streaks and records.
"It's awesome, it's a great environment for the community," Arntson said. "Everybody comes out and supports their teams and supports the kids of Butte. That's the main thing."
And over at Butte Central, first-year head girls coach Quinn Carter, much like Kelly, has been involved in the city championships for about as long as she can remember as both a player — when she was coached by her dad Don Peoples Jr. — and an assistant under former head coach Meg Murphy.
But this will be her first crosstown game at the helm, and it's an experience she's looking forward to.
"This year's exciting, it's my first time as head coach in the Butte High-Butte Central game," Carter said. "I've been a part of this game since I was a young girl. And so it's a new position for me and I'm excited to see what Tuesday's about."
The Butte High and Butte Central girls tip off at the Civic Center at 6 p.m. and the Bulldog and Maroon boys at 7:30 p.m.