Even though it was comfortably cool inside Four Seasons Arena on Thursday morning for the start of the State Class B boys’ basketball tournament, it didn’t take Derrek Durocher long to heat up.
The talented Choteau junior guard needed only 17 seconds to sink his first field goal, and by the end of eight minutes he had scored more points (nine) than the entire lineup of the St. Labre Braves. By the end of the game, Durocher had a game-high 24 points, but more importantly, the red-hot Bulldogs owned an 80-42 victory for their 24th straight win.
“We just wanted to come out fast and play our game,” said Durocher, who combined with fellow junior guard Collin Achenbach for 17 points in the first quarter alone. “We’re more about achieving our goals than what the other team wants to do. And we did pretty much what we wanted to do.”
The Bulldogs (24-0) breezed into Friday’s semifinal clash at 3:30 against defending state champion Bigfork, which edged Columbus 53-50 in Thursday’s opening contest at the arena. The same two teams last met in 2013, when Bigfork nipped Choteau in the first round of the state tourney.
“I think it’s a great matchup with Bigfork, maybe the best matchup of the tournament,” Choteau coach Matt Luedtke said. “They (Vikings) are very athletic, but not real tall, much like us. It should be two real good basketball teams slugging it out.”
The Bulldogs also got 16 points from Dylan Pannabecker, 14 from Liam Breem and 10 from Achenbach, who also contributed six assists and four steals.
Ten of the 11 Bulldogs who played grabbed at least one rebound, with backup forward Logan Howard leading the way with six caroms.
“We’ve got five guys who can score at any time from any place on the court,” Luedtke said. “Derrek made some shots early, and Liam stepped up and made some nice plays. We never want to take our foot off the pedal because that isn’t how we play.”
The Bulldogs led by as many as 43 points, but Luedtke used reserves almost exclusively in the fourth quarter after the game was out of hand.
Victor Yarlott, a 6-2 junior, topped St. Labre (20-7) with 12 points. The Braves made only 1 of 13 3-point attempts and were outrebounded 38-27, while turning the ball over 18 times against Choteau’s aggressive man-to-man defense.
St. Labre returns to the court at 9 this morning to face Columbus in a loser-out contest.