Mission Valley boys basketball previews: Polson top scorer Graham returns

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Polson sophomore Colton Graham made an impact as a freshman, earning all-conference honors and leading the team in scoring. (Bob Gunderson/Lake County Leader)

Last season, the Polson Pirates could have easily flipped the script on their 9-14 record as they came out on the short end of a quintet of contests by a mere two possessions or less. Formulate some fixes to a few fractured fundamentals and they were capable of contending with the likes of the best.

The Pirates graduated their second and third leading scorers in Micah Askan and twice all-conference (hm) Robin Erickson along with a strong supportive cast of seasoned contributors.

Further impacting roster attrition is a leg injury sustained by fourth leading scorer Trevor Schultz in an early season football game. The team remains optimistic that he may be able to return toward the latter portion of the schedule.

Aiding Pirate recalibration efforts is the return of all-conference (2nd-tm) leading scorer Colton Graham, a multi-pronged threat on the court who can dish as well as he can shoot.

Also returning are their fifth and sixth century club contributors Ryker Wenderoth and Bo Kelley. Kelley and Wenderoth collaborated on more than forty triples from beyond the arc as well as pilfered more than five dozen steals, illustrative of multiple threat capabilities.

Depending upon the caliber of competition, the Pirates can also supersize their order to go big. Among returnees with varsity level experience include 6-5 Trevor Lake, 6-4 Braunson Henriksen and 6-3 Gunnar Grisak, all of whom have shown measure-able improvement from last season.

A tandem whose court time was curtailed on account of injury or illness last season include multiple all-state golfer Trey Kelley and multi-sport accentuated Connor Lanier. Contributions from both these seasoned seniors will help ameliorate attrition impacts sustained to roster depth from graduation.

Head coach Randy Kelley helms the Pirates for the fifth season along with assistance from John Kelley, Brad Fisher and Tim Lake.

One area of focus will be improving the bottom line for free throw conversion at the charity stripe. Pirate performance at the line last season was much like a tossup on the Wheel of Fortune game show, never quite sure whether the ball would roll in for a payoff, clank off the rim or brick off the backboard. It is sometimes one of the gameís ironies that players with the sharpest eye from long distance beyond the arc despite hands in their faces will sometimes inconceivably struggle from the free throw line even though nobody is guarding and the shot release is unobstructed.

Polson inaugurates their season at the NWA/SWA Tip-Off on December 6-7 in Frenchtown against Dillon and Glendive.

On an aside, the Pirates and the Beavers faced off against each other in the first round of Divisionals last season. The Pirates successfully packed the paint, forcing Dillon to rely on allegedly lower percentage long range shooting. The only wrinkle that occurred was that the Beavers shot triples in comparable manner to higher percentage free throw shooting, making 17 of 21 for an 80th percentile return ratio, almost triple an ordinary expectation level.

Western A boys basketball capsule

NWA Polson Pirates

(2019-18: 5-5nwa, 9-14, 1191pts)

Conf: 3rd, NWAtrny: 2nd 2-1, Western A: dnp 0-2

(2018-17: 7-3nwa, 11-11, 1145pts)

Conf: 2nd, NWAtrny: 1st 2-0, Western A: dnp 0-2

mascot: Pirates

coach: Randy Kelley, 5th yr (20+yrs coaching)

asst: Brad Fisher, John Kelley, Tim Lake


Micah Askan (MA2019-18: 184p,82r,16a,13s,3b),

Robin Erickson

(BBB 2x a-c hm / BSC 2x a-s, 2x a-c 1st-tm)

(RE2019-18: 178p,62r,56a,28s,7b),

Parker Toth (42p,30r3a,9s),

Kordell Walker (69p,63r,18a,18s,7b),

Keyan Dalbey (25p,27r,7a,7s,1b)

further roster adaptations (injuries, et al):

sr. 6-1 F Trevor Schultz

(FB 2x a-c: 1st-tm TE 2018, hm WR 2017)

(TS2019-18: 147p,73r,30a,19s,5b)

Seth Lake (19p,11r,3a,1s)

Ethan McCauley

(TF a-c 4x400 5th 2019)


so. 6-2 F Colton Graham, carrier high 19p

(BBB a-c 2nd-tm 2019-18)

(CG2019-18: 234p,111r,78a,38s,11b, 3FG:22)

sr. 5-9 G Ryker Wenderoth, career high 13p

(FB a-s, 3x a-c: 1st-tm WR/CB 2019, hm CB 2018)

(RK2019-18: 141p,43r,38a,30s,2b),

sr. 5-10 G Bo Kelley, career high 15p

(BK2019-18: 108p,49r,22a,32s,3b, 3FG:22)

jr. 6-5 P Trevor Lake

(TL2019-18: 28p,36r,9a,3s,7b)

sr. 6-3 F/P Gunnar Grisak (5p)

sr. 5-8 G Trey Kelley (3p,2r)

(GLF 3x a-s: 10th 2019, t15th 2017, t11th 2016; 4x a-c; 8th,4th,9th,t10th)

sr. 6-2 G/F Connor Lanier, career high 28p

(BBB a-c 2nd-tm 2018-17; BSC a-s 2017, 2x a-c: 1st-tm 2017, 2nd-tm 2018; FB 1st-tm P 2017; TF 2017 a-s: tj 4th, a-c 110h 6th), (CL2019-18: 2p)

(CL2018-17: 274p,140r,79a,35s)

2018-17tm: 1st(a), 2nd(p,r),

so. 6-4 P Braunson Henriksen


Fr06Dec19 vs. Dillon (Frenchtown HS)

Sa07Dec19 vs Glendive (Frenchtown MS)

Ronan recalibrates to counter conference competition

Ronan graduated their leading scorer in post presence Anthony Camel along with a trio of century club contributors for either scoring (Bubba Bush), rebounding (Randy Finley) or both (Dallas Durheim). Seven graduates accounted for more than half of Chief point productivity last season, indicative that previous reserves will be upgrading former roles to fill vacancies while an influx of new contributors round out the roster.

Among those are included Leonard Burke and Zarec Couture, both of whom showed proficiency for being able to net points while also pounding the boards.

The Chiefs will also have some inches to work with that are reflected by the wingspans of Girma Detwiler and Trey Donít Mix.

In addition to changes to Ronan roster configuration, the Chiefs will make another transition as Ron Couture takes over the reigns as head coach after a three season stint by Mitchell Wassam.

The NWA/SWA Tip-Off will be played at Frenchtown instead of the UM campus on account of a scheduling conflict with the originally intended venue. Ronan will face Stevensville and Butte Central the weekend of December 6-7.

Western A boys basketball capsule

NWA Ronan Chiefs

(2019-18: 3-7nwa, 5-15, 959pts)

(2018-17: 4-6nwa, 10-14, 1336pts)

mascot: Chiefs

coach: Ron Couture, 1st yr

asst: Jacques Graham, Howard Walker


Anthony Camel, career high 37p

BBB 2x a-c: 2nd-tm 2017-18, hm 2018-19)

AC2018-19: 14gms: 246p,122r, 16a,28s,9b)

(AC2017-18: 442p,192r,28a,17s,9b)

Dallas Durheim

(BBB a-c hm 2017-18)

(DD2018-19: 161p,134r,13a,27s,13b),

(DD2017-18: 206p,172r,16a,31s)

Bubba Bush

(BBB a-c hm; FB a-c 2nd-tm ILB)

(BB 2017-18: 104p, 51r,64a,21s,1b)

Randy Finley (86p,100r,29a,29s,3b),

Terrell Stump (TS2019-18: 45p,22r,13a,10s,1b), Levi Trahan (22p, 9r,9a,7s,1b), Aidan Birdinground (21p,28r,8a,2s,2b)

further roster impacts:

Jacob Gatch (JG2019-18: 181p, 80r,17a,13s,18b)

Daniel Kelsch


jr. 5-9 G Leonard Burke (LB2019-18: 44p,14r,14a,8s)

jr. 6-0 F Zarec Couture (ZC2019-18: 32p,42r,5a,7s,2b),

jr. 6-3 G/F Girma Detwiler (GD2019-18: 8p,10r,2a,5s,4b),

sr. 6-4 F Trey Donít Mix (TDM2019-18: 4p,10r,3b),

sr. 5-10 G/F Kuba Detwiler (KD2019-18: 2p,4r,4a,2s)

sr. 6-0 F Saul BlackWeasel (SBW2019-18: 1p,2r)

NWA/SWA Tip-Off:

Fr06Dec19 vs. Stevensville (Frenchtown HS)

Sa07Dec19 vs. Butte Central (Frenchtown MS)

Warriors seek to shrink transition adjustments

After an atypical reign among the postseason elite the past handful of seasons that included competing in the State C title tilt four seasons in a row, the State C runnerup Warriors will undergo some adaptations that extend beyond the mere attrition to their roster from graduation.

A boost in enrollment numbers jumps Arlee up a classification from District 14C to District 6B. They will also recalibrate their offensive system with the departure of Zanen Pitts, their head coach the past half dozen seasons.

Getting poked by such a three pronged pitchfork might destabilize the haybale of many teams. But Arlee is anticipated to weather this transition with greater ease on account of the veteran experience that former Salish Kootenai College basketball coach Zach Camel will bring to the table as he takes over the reins of the program.

The Warriors graduated around 70% of their offensive productivity from last season including a trio of accolade accentuated players, which will necessitate a redistribution of roles to fill in vacancy gaps. Fortunately, the team returns a core quartet that include a trio of seasoned seniors in Zach RunningCrane, Cody Tanner, Billy Fisher and sophomore Levi Fullerton. At this juncture of the preseason, the remaining roster remains in a state of flux.

Arlee is slated to participate in the Western C Tip-Off at the Ronan Events Center, December 6-7.

Western B boys basketball capsule

6B Arlee Warriors (formerly 14C)

mascot: Warriors

2x State C champions 2018-16

coach: Zach Camel, 1st yr (# yrs SKC)

asst: pending

postseason history:

(2019-18 14C: 24-3, 1971p)

2019-18: conf crown, 14C:1st, WesternC:2nd, StateC:2nd

(2018-17 14C: 26-0, 2095p)

2018-17: conf crown, 14C:1st, WesternC:1st, StateC:1st

(2017-16 14C: 26-1, 2159)

2017-16: conf crown, 14C:1st, WesternC:1st, StateC:1st

(2016-15 14C: 24-2, 2041p)

2016-15: conf crown, 14C:1st, WesternC:1st, StateC:2nd

(2015-14 14C: 24-2, 1877p)

2015-14: conf crown, 14C:1st, WesternC:2nd, StateC:dnp

(2014-13 14C: 16-9, 1619p)

2014-13: 14C:2nd, WesternC:3rd


Greg Whitesell

(BBB a-s 2017-18, 2x a-c 1st-tm, 2x all-trny: 1st-tm 2018-19, 2nd-tm 2017-18)


(GW2017-18: 352p, 61r, 72a, 70s, 4b)

3yr sub-tally: 698p, career high 25p *

Lane Johnson

(BBB a-s 2017-18, 2x a-c: 1st-tm 2018-19, 2nd-tm 2017-18; all-trny 2nd-tm 2017-18; FB 2018 a-s TE, 2x a-c: 1st-tm TE, 2nd-tm DB),

(LJ2018-19: *296p,94r,71a,38s,14b)

(LJ2017-18: 288p, 139r, 43a, 62s, 8b)

Isaac Fisher

(BBB a-s, 2x a-c: 1st-tm 2018-19, hm 2017-18; 2x all-trny: 2nd-tm 2018-19, hm 2017-18)

(IF2018-19: *348p,186r,19a,24s,69b),

(IF2017-18: 188p, 161r, 11a, 28s, 46b)

Darshan Bolen FB a-c 2nd-tm RB (DB2019-18: *109p,93r,68a,46s,5b)

Lane Schall (FB a-s, 1st-tm QB/DL)

(LS2019-18: 47p,71r,18a,36s,1b)

Chase Gardner (FB a-s, 1st-tm WR/DB)

(CG2019-18: 38p,24r,4a,13s,2b),

Nate Coulson (31p,38r,8a,10s,1b),


sr. 5-0 G Cody Tanner

(CT2-19-18: *218p,64r,580a,58s,2b),

sr. 6-3 F Billy Fisher

(BF2019-18: *127p,87r,15a,19s,2b)

sr. 6-5 F Zach RunningCrane

(ZRC2019-18: 65p,60r,24a,13s,3b)

so. 6-0 F Levi Fullerton

(LF2019-18: 61p,54r,12a,25s,2b),

remaining roster in stat of flux

Western C Tip-Off

Fr06Dec19 vs. Seeley Swan

Sa07Dec19 vs. Darby

Dawgs aim to add bite to new season bark

Last season, the Mission Bulldogs peaked at the optimal time, playing some of their best basketball during the postseason. At the Western B Divisional, after getting bumped by eventual champion Bigfork, Mission battled their way back through bracket backwaters to win the consolation championship. The win set

up a challenge match against runnerup Loyola. Though the Bulldogs would be unsuccessful in toppling the Rams for the coveted berth on the State B stage, the caliber of their competitiveness was good enough to warrant an at-large bid if such scenarios existed at the prep level. Both Loyola and Bigfork would end up playing each other again in the State B title tilt, which merits contemplation about how well Mission might have fared against statewide competition had they been able to attend.

Mission graduated a trio of all-conference, double century point producers along with another pair of century threshold crossers who accounted for more than half of team scoring. Though the Bulldogs have a lot of firepower to replace this upcoming season, they nevertheless return all-conference (1st-tm) leading scorer Jedi Christy, who crested the triple century mark last season. Reserves, who made multiple contributions during the course of postseason play, will be called upon to fill vacant shoes while others are integrated to flesh out the roster.

Mission travels to Great Falls to play in the Native American Classic on December 6-7 against Harlem and Rocky Boy.

Western B boys

basketball capsule

7B Mission Bulldogs

(2019-18 6B: 4-4, 13-10, 1498p,747r,344a,301s,43b)

Wtr 2018-19 Dist 6B:2nd, WesternB:3rd

(2018-17: 6-13, 1077p,666r,196a,221s,46b)

mascot: Bulldogs

coach: Stuart Grant, 2nd yr (asst previously)

(BBB 2x a-s 2014-12) 1yr SKC, 1yr Little Big Horn College

asst: Adam Hawkaluk, Al Morigeau


Jacob Hugs (BBB a-c 2nd-tm)

(JH2019-18: 277p,81r,41a,44s,6b),

Flint McPherson (BBB a-c 2nd-tm)

(FM2019-18: 243p,122r,80a,46s,5b),

Wacey McClure (BBB a-c 1st-tm)

(WM2019-18: 221p,114r,97a,72s,17b),

Lucas Vanderburg (LV2019-18: 212p,124r,16a,25s,1b),

Matt Anderson (MA2019-18: 117p,121r,35a,20s,7b),

Jordan Matt (JM2019-18: 31p,21r,3a,10s,1b),


sr. 5-11 Jedi Christy, career high 26p

(BBB a-c 1st-tm; FB a-s, 2x a-c: 1st-tm ILB, 2nd-tn WR)

(JC2019-18: 309p,89r,60a,57s,3b),

jr. 6-2 Layne Spidel

(FB 2x a-c: 1st-tm KR/DE)

(LS2019-18: 33p,44r,2a,11s,1b)

sr. 6-0 Davien Adams (16p,10r,3a2s,1b),

so. 6-4 Ross McPherson (16p,13r,1s),

sr. 5-10 Trance Bird (12p,4r,1a,8s),

Native American Classic Tip-Off

Fr06Dec19 7B Mission vs. 2B Harlem (gm6)

Sa07Dec19 1B Rocky Boy vs 7B Mission (gm11)

Vikings seek to

shorten rebuilding

Last season, the Charlo Vikings were a solid seasoned squad, but found themselves trailing in the wake of league leading Arlee, placing second in both conference as well as Districts. Entering Western C Divisional action as a second-seed, the Vikings fell like everyone else to then undefeated Twin Bridges, won a consolation match against Clark Fork before being eliminated by Gardiner.

Charlo will kick off the season competing at the Western C Tip-Off at the Ronan Events Center the weekend of December 6-7.

Western C boys basketball capsule

14C Charlo Vikings

(2019-18: 10-2, 18-6, 1252pts)

(2018-17: 8-4, 16-6, 1225pts)

mascot: Vikings

coach: Reese Cox, 3rd yr


Landers Smith

(BBB a-s, 3x a-c: 1st-tm2019-18, 2nd-tm 2018-16)

(LS2019-18: 386p,>200r),

(career4yrLS2019-15: 995p + 3xMVAS25p = 1020p)

Connor Koenig (a-c 2nd-tm, 299p)

Nate Delaney (207p),

Garett Vaughan (a-c hm, 134p)

Brock Tomlin (73p)


jr. 5-8 Roper Edwards (68p),

jr. 5-6 Phil Marquez (53p),

jr. 5-10 Nate Clark (14p),

sr. 6-0 Levi Gaustad (FB a-c 2nd-tm DL 2018)

jr. 6-5 Joe Castor (6p),

so. 5-11 Brayden Zempel (6p),

so. 5-4 Coyle Nagy (5p),

so. 6-1 Tameron Truman (3p)

sr. 6-1 Bowen Tryon

Eagles set to spread wings for extended flight

The Eagles graduated more than half their point production that includes a pair of all-conference honorable mention contributors, Travis Pieree and Dominique Finley. Such a scoring adjustment ordinarily signals a rebuilding phase for most teams the following season.

But Two Eagle benefit from a bump in the transfer of seasoned senior Jacob Gatch, the second leading scorer for the Chiefs whose point tally offsets the graduation of the lead Eagle scorer last season.

Western C boys basketball capsule

14C Two Eagle River

(2019-18: 1-11dist, 1-19, 776pts)

(2018-17: 7-13, 1088pts)

mascot: Eagles

coach: Camas McClure, 2nd yr (asst 2yrs)

asst: Mike McCrea


Travis Pierre (a-c hm 181p), Dom Finley (a-c hm 160p), Kesean Burke (82p), Isaac Bullen/FourBear (26p)

roster adaptations:

William Hameline (57p), transferred


5-5 Anthony Charlo, jr. (98p)

5-9 Elias Adams, sr. (57p),

5-7 Michael Brown, jr. (55p),

5-11 Nate OldHorn, jr. (23p),

5-9 Shade Tanner, sr. (4p)

transfer in:

sr. 6-2 G/F Jacob Gatch (181p, 80r,17a,13s,18b), Nehemiah Long, Sheadyn Croft

Native American Classic Tip-Off

Fr06Dec19 vs. Kainai, AB (gm7)

Sa07Dec19 vs. Browning JV (gm15)

Mission Valley Christian Academy

The Mission Valley Christian Academy embarks upon the first season of their basketball program. The Eagles will play an abbreviated schedule in part due to not presently having a home facility to host such events.

Some of their contests will be played against Missoulaís Valley Christian, Kalispellís Stillwater Chritian, Helena Christian and Summit Prep.

MVCA Eagles

inaugural season

coach: Charles Lutz


sr. 6-0 Ace Lake; jr 6-0 Levi Smyth; fr. 5-11 Noah Carlin; fr. 5-10 Braydon Luikart; 8th 5-11 Logan Smith; 7th 5-10 Ayden Luper; others pending.

season opener:

Sa07Dec19 vs Valley Christian JV in Missuula

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