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State A boys: Dillon storms past defending champ Lewistown to claim title

DILLON CHAMPIONSHIP FRAME.jpg
Posted at 8:44 PM, Mar 09, 2024

BUTTE — The sting of losing a state title game lingered with Dillon for an entire year. The Beavers didn’t falter in their quest for atonement Saturday night.

Dillon took a hard early punch from Lewistown but quickly shook it off and ran away with a 53-28 victory over Lewistown to win the Class A boys state basketball championship at the Civic Center.

It marks Dillon’s 11th boys title in 19 championship game appearances, and caps a season of retribution after losing to Lewistown in last season’s state final.

“You can't really put this feeling into words," said 6-foot-4 Beavers forward Carter Curnow, who finished with 11 points. "Last year, getting beat by the same guys, it puts a little fire in your stomach. It really propels you to do the things we just did out there."

Lewistown was the aggressor at the outset. Maxx Ray hit an off-balance shot and Kieran Netburn scored twice inside as the Eagles took a 6-0 advantage. Another Netburn basket made it 8-3 in favor of Lewistown with 3:58 left in the opening quarter.

Dillon, though, found success with their zone defense, neutralizing the Eagles’ inside game and holding them to just two field goals in the second quarter. Meanwhile, the Beavers took command on the offensive end.

A 3-pointer by Max Davis gave Dillon its first lead at 9-8 with 1:20 left in the first. Kee Christiansen converted twice on drives early in the second, and Davis scored on a no-look pass from Carter Curnow and scored off his own steal later in the quarter as the Beavers grabbed a 14-point halftime lead.

State A boys: Dillon storms past defending champion Lewistown

Davis was a first-half spark. He scored 10 points before intermission and even jumped on top of the tables at press row to save a ball from going out of bounds late in the second quarter. With their zone as the catalyst, Dillon outscored Lewistown 18-5 in the second.

"Our zone worked particularly well today," Curnow said. "Just the flow of the team together. We all move as one; if one link is missing it's going to mess up the whole rotation. So when we rotate all as one the whole team succeeds."

Then, early in the third, Kyler Engellent and Christiansen hit consecutive 3s to put Dillon ahead 35-13.

Lewistown’s Ray, so crucial to the Eagles’ postseason success dating back to their run to the Eastern A title two weeks prior, didn’t nearly have the same impact while dealing with the apparent a right foot/ankle injury he suffered at the end of the team’s semifinal win over Butte Central on Friday.

Eagles coach Scott Sparks revealed afterward that Ray was playing with a hairline fracture in his foot.

"He just wasn't himself. He was really in a lot of pain," Sparks said. "That was a downer. But that wasn't the difference in the game. Dillon just beat us. They're the better team and they did a great job tonight."

Engellant had 15 points and 10 rebounds for Dillon. Christiansen had seven points and five boards.

Netburn's eight points led Lewistown while Big Sandy transfer Wylee Snapp finished with six. The Eagles shot just 29%. Lewistown was outrebounded by Dillon 31 to 19, which was a role reversal from last year's championship game.

Dillon finished its season with a 20-5 record and with the win captured a boys basketball title on top of the Class A state football crown it won in the fall. Lewistown pulled that same feat the year prior.

The Eagles ended the year with a 12-11 mark. They battled injuries all year, as well as the graduation of standout Royce Robinson and the transfer of the high-scoring Fischer Brown to a prep school in Utah.

But Lewistown got healthy and played its best basketball at the end of the year. The Eagles fell just one win shy of a repeat championship.

“It was a wild one," Sparks said. "We were trying to replace 80% of our scoring and then the injuries we started the year with, it was tough. But I told everybody that if we could get healthy I thought we were a top-four team and I never wavered from that. And at the end we were a top-two team."

Earlier Saturday, Columbia Falls beat Butte Central 58-53 to win third place. Columbia Falls did what is typically difficult to do — come back to win a trophy after losing in the first round.

The Wildcats Lost by 13 in the first round to Lewistown but rallied with wins over Glendive on Friday and Hamilton early Saturday to stay alive. Against Butte Central, C-Falls had three in double figures: Reggie Sapa with 16, and Cody Schweikert and Jace Hill with 10 apiece.

Saturday loser-out scores

Butte Central 58, Billings Central 54

Columbia Falls 71, Hamilton 48