For Polson Pirates Coach Randy Kelley it’s time for his team to go back to basketball school as they prepare for the first round of the Montana Class State Tournament match against Billings Central next Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Butte Civic Center.
For Polson High School, it will mark the third time they have played Billings Central in the post-season. The Lady Pirates soccer team and Pirates’ football team both played Central and lost by heart-breaking, one-point defeats in each contest.
Kelley, and his Pirates team are very familiar with the Rams over the course of the last two years, according to Kelley.
“We’ve seen them in the last two state tournaments and we met up with them in the first game two years ago,” Kelley said. “They always have good athletes and are patient on offense. They shoot the ball pretty well. It’s a good, tough draw. Every game that you play in state is going to be tough.”
Kelley said he felt his Pirates team will need to find some consistency. He learned a little bit more about his team throughout the Class-A State Divisionals last weekend in Hamilton.
“It all depends on how we handle ourselves,” Kelley said. “We didn’t look very good or take very good care of the basketball and didn’t attack well against Dillon. We really didn’t go at them. The bottom line is that we have to play a little bit better on defense, shoot the basketball a lot better, and rebound.”
Kelley credited two of his players, Matthew Rensvold and Shade Mane, as having good tournaments in the Divisionals.
“In the first half against Dillon, our defense struggled shooting the ball a little bit,” Kelley said. “In the second half, they got after it and were a little more physical. We need to be in attack mode and can’t sit back on our heels and expect things to go our way in the playoffs.”
Kelley said the depth perception of shooting in the Butte Civic Center is “tough” but his Pirates have experience at the venue.
“It’s a little different shooting in a darker gym,” Kelley said. “I thought we played very well in that venue and we are excited to get back there. We are going to enjoy this because this is what we’ve been working for the last three or four months. We want to go out there and take care of business.”
Kelley said he liked the side of the bracket his team is positioned on as they will enter the tournament as the No. 2 seed from the West.
The winner of the contest will play the winner of the No. 4 seed out of the West, Hamilton and No. 1 seed out of the east, Laurel.
“The last three years, Laurel has been there,” Kelley said. “There are seven or eight other teams I know were there the last couple of seasons. We don’t get to see them every year and the state tournament is an opportunity to learn some things other teams like to do. As far as defensively or offensively, one or two possessions can make a difference in the state tournament.”
Kelley said his team just needs to come out and control the pace like they did in their Divisional victories against Corvallis and Butte Central.
“Of course, the kids came out and shot the ball pretty well and played decent,” Kelley said. “We were able to get those jitters out of the first game and because of that, we were able to control the pace of the game and play well. Our game against Dillon wasn’t quite as pleasant but we probably need to get more shots up and play a little better on defense.”
Kelley said he felt in the state tournament “anything can happen.”
“With a little luck and having the ball bounce your way, you could be hoisting the state trophy,” Kelley said. “It’s the final weekend for some of these seniors we have. We just want them to relax and go out and play their best basketball. You have to focus on the task at hand as far as who you are matched up with and take one possession at a time.”