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Dillon basketball programs under new head coaches in Jeff Edwards, Josh Keller

Posted at 3:37 PM, Dec 27, 2023

BUTTE — Jeff Edwards likened getting over a decade of studying under Terry Thomas to winning the lottery.

"I thank my lucky stars I ended up being able to work with Coach Thomas for almost 15 years," said Edwards, Dillon's first-year head boys basketball coach. Thomas, Edwards' predecessor, saw his teams claim five State A titles over a two-decade span at the helm. The Beavers took second place at last season's tournament in Thomas' final game.

"I don't know what millionaires feel like," Edwards continued. "But that's what I feel it is. I'm a lucky man. He's a hall of fame coach, but he's an even better person."

This season's Beavers have rolled to a 5-1 non-conference record in December with their lone loss a 57-41 defeat to Billings Central.

Many of the players on this roster were part of Dillon's football championship in November, including Kee Christiansen, Max Davis and Carter Curnow. They now know what it feels like to win a state title and — after last basketball season's disappointing ending — their hot start is no surprise to their new head coach.

"I think it all started back in March when Lewistown was a few points better than us that day," he said. "The very next day those guys were back in the gym getting up shots."

Edwards, a Columbus native, represents one half of a new head coaching duo at Beaverhead County High School. Josh Keller — who spent seven years as head coach of the Twin Bridges boys and girls teams — is Dillon's head girls coach after John Hansen stepped down following five seasons.

Keller returned to Dillon two years ago and spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant under then Montana Western women's head basketball coach Lindsay Woolley. Keller then spent the 2022-23 season as an assistant alongside Edwards on Thomas' staff.

"I definitely had a chance to step out and learn from a couple great coaches," Keller said of his two years away from being a head coach. "It's just taking some of my philosophies and adding in some of the things that the greats have done."

The Dillon girls are coming off a season that saw them bow out of the state tournament after going 0-2. This year's team has gotten off to a 4-2 start behind the performances of players like seniors Halle Fitzgerald and Sydney Petersen and junior Kenleigh Graham.

Last season's team roared through the regular season, at one point earning thetop spot in the MTN Sports power rankings. This team, coming off a 76-19 rout over Polson last week, looks to be on a similar path. But it'll ultimately come down to how this squad is playing come tournament time.

"We talk a lot about how we just want to keep going and rising and get to the top of our game at the other corner," said Keller. "Just a straight line of get better, get better, get better. And I think we've done that."

Both Dillon teams will close out non-conference play at home against Livingston on Jan. 4 before opening Southwest A play against Frenchtown on the road on Jan. 6.