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Under 20th-year head coach Brodie Kelly, Butte Central boys rolling early

Posted at 1:25 PM, Dec 14, 2023

BUTTE — The multitude of abilities that Dougie Peoples brought to the floor for Butte Central's boys basketball team for four years was exceptional, and the Maroons — coming off a third-place finish at state last season — have now been settling back into a more traditional approach to the game.

"Dougie was such a unique player that most everything we did offensively was predicated on what he was doing," 20th-year head coach Brodie Kelly said of Peoples. "We ran a system that allowed him a lot of freedom to be himself."

"But now we're kind back to what was normal before Dougie," Kelly added with a chuckle.

Peoples, the 2023 Montana boys basketball Gatorade player of the year, was instrumental in helping the Maroons lock up 2020 and 2022 Class A titles. He's now a member of the defending national champion College of Idaho men's basketball program, where he joined fellow Montana natives Caden Handran (Scobey), Alex Germer (Missoula Sentinel) and Drew Wyman (Great Falls).

The Maroons have had to adjust to life without Peoples but under the leadership of Central's longtime coach, they've been rolling through the early part of their non-conference schedule and are currently at 3-0 following the Western A Tip-Off Tournament in Frenchtown. There the Maroons routed defending Class A champion Lewistown 57-37 and then pulled past Browning 70-59.

"We love to get tested early," said senior Jack Keeley of Central's hot start. "You wanna see where you're at, how good you can be. They're good test of what we can be this season."

Said fellow senior Zane Moodry: "I think it's super important, gauges where we're at compared to the rest of the league. Playing these teams that aren't in (the Southwest A) kind of tells us where we're at."

The players on the floor may change from season to season, but Kelly's coaching approach has been a constant for the past two decades as he heads into his 20th year at the helm of Central. His teams have advanced to at least the semifinal round of the state tournament in 13 of the 19 seasons he's been the Maroons head coach.

"Our culture has been consistent from the day that I started here," Kelly said. "I think the way we play is pretty consistent. We're not stubborn, we tweak things but every team in the state knows that we got no secrets. Everybody knows the way we're gonna play and we're just able to sustain it."

Both the Western A divisional tournament and State A tournament will be held at the Butte Civic Center this season meaning that the more postseason wins the Maroons can rack up, the longer they can continue playing in front of a hometown crowd.

And while the Maroons are now without their highest scoring player in program history, if Central's current record and Kelly's history of producing successful teams is any indication, there's no reason for this team to not envision itself playing well into March.

"Our goal as always is to get back to the state tournament," said Kelly. "It's hard to set your goal above that. You've gotta get there first. That's what we have our eyes on in the big picture.

"We're just trying to be our best every night, every practice. Ultimately get back on that state stage and see what we can do."