The Pirates’ program, which will lose several seniors including two of their main components to their success, Matthew Rensvold and Tanner Wilson, hope the third place finish is the precursor for building and not rebuilding, according to Kelley.
“There is nothing that can replace the experience of being at state and even if you don’t get a chance to play in state, the experience really helps your program,” Kelley said. “We’ve been there the last four years. Next year, it will be a process but we will just have to take it game by game.”
The Pirates will not only lose several of their key components but they will also have to deal with a new competitive dynamic with several former Class B teams being upgraded to Class A for the 2017-2018 school season. This will also make it more difficult to qualify for state because, like its Class-C and Class-B counterparts, Class-A will now include a district, divisional and state.
“I think the realignment will make the Northwest a little more competitive (next season) and the Southwest is going to be very strong,” Kelley said. “It’s going to be a little different though because two district tournament teams will stay home and that means that we will have to take the regular season game by game and reassess our goals when it comes to Districts and Divisionals.”
Billings Central 57, Polson 37
The Polson Pirates lost their first round game 57-37 to the eventual Class-A runner-up team Billings Central Thursday afternoon at the Butte Civic Center.
The Rams came in with one specific agenda and scheme and that was to stop Polson Pirates’ star Matthew Rensvold.
The Rams took a chance on triple-teaming Rensvold and made the rest of the Pirates team defeat them. The tactic worked, according to Kelley.
“They knew where Matthew was, we didn’t shoot the ball and we had way too many turnovers,” Kelley said. “During that game, we came out a little flat. We just weren’t ready to play in that first game and we just didn’t have our best game there.”
Kelley said he felt his team struggled to generate offense and shoot in the first period. When his Pirates have struggled in the first half, Kelley said his team has typically lost.
“For the most part, I wouldn’t call our first period against Billings Central very good,” Kelley said. “We didn’t play well in Billings. Fast starts (in the first half) really got us going this season for the most part.”
Polson 51, Hamilton 45
The Polson Pirates were able to avenge their 58-57 regular-season loss to Hamilton with a 51-45 victory Friday night.
Kelley said he felt his team took the “same strategic approach” they did against Billings Central but just played better.
“You know, it wasn’t like we were doing anything different,” Kelley said. “We played a little more zone and tried to make them beat us from the outside. We did a better job of attacking the rim and we outrebounded them like 35-26. We played with a little more effort defensively than we did in the first game.”
According to Kelley, one of the keys for the Pirates’ success was being able to manufacture offensive production. Polson generated 19 points in the first quarter and they also distributed the ball evenly amongst their starting five, according to Kelley.
Matthew Rensvold and Jaden Bautista both finished scoring in double digits. Rensvold finished with 16 points and Bautista had 14. Other contributors included Tanner Wilson with nine and J’Von Johnson finished with five.
Polson 62, Butte Central 59, (OT)
The Polson Pirates faced the team they defeated in the first round of the Class-A Divisionals in Hamilton.
Prior to Divisionals, Coach Kelley knew the Maroons could be “formidable.” The Maroons, very much like the Pirates, entered the Divisional, and state as one of the hotter teams, Kelley said.
In the consolation semifinals, boths teams proved to be evenly matched and it took the Pirates an extra period to defeat Butte Central 62-59 Saturday night at the Butte Civic Center.
The Pirates were able to survive a Maroon third quarter surge when they outscored the Pirates 20-12 in that quarter. The Pirates answered the Maroons offensive charge in the fourth quarter outscoring them 20-13.
The Pirates were able to outscore the Maroons in the overtime period 10-7.
Kelley praised Jaydon Bautista, who was one of three Pirates that scored in double-digits, and was second in point-production with 19 points. Tanner Wilson led the Pirates with 23, and Matthew Rensvold scored in double-figures with. Other contributors in the victory included J’Von Johnson and Jeremiah North Piegan who each scored two.
Polson 54, Belgrade 47
The Polson Pirates were able to capture third primarily behind the offensive efforts of Matthew Rensvold and Jeremiah North Piegan. The two players combined for 32 of the Pirates’ 54 points en route to their 54-47 victory over Belgrade Saturday night in the consolation final at the Butte Civic Center.
“We just kind of settled in against Belgrade and I thought we had a little bit of fresher legs,” Kelley said. “Belgrade looked tired. That was the difference is that we were able to hit some buckets and they didn’t in that first quarter. Belgrade was able to warm up a tad in the fourth period but I thought the kids played well. They had a great game rebounding and as far as our scoring, I thought Tanner did a good job taking care of the basketball. Jeremiah had a good game for us and Matthew had a solid double-double game.”
Belgrade had a late fourth-quarter surge and they scored 28 of their 47 points in the second half. The Pirates were able to to establish a 29-10 lead at halftime.
Rensvold led the Pirates with 17, North Piegan had 15, and Bautista finished with eight.
The Pirates finished third for the second-consecutive season. Kelley, who said he was “pleased” with his team’s overall effort at state, knows next year will be a process.
“It’s going to take an effort by the kids in the off season,” Kelley said. “We are going to have to get into the gym. We have some good players that are coming and we just have to change our offensive mentality and find an offense that suits our kids. Next year, our kids will have to play hard. We have some kids that can play hard and defend. On the offensive end, you never know what you are going to get.”