Led by a strong senior class nucleus, Belle Fourche High School varsity boys basketball team is off to one of its best starts in recent years. Heading into this week's games, the Broncs have won three of their initial four games.
Belle Fourche holds wins over Hill City and Stateline Shootout triumphs over Newcastle and Sundance, Wyo. The twin wins over the Wyoming teams marked the second sweep over their border foes in three years.
"Our depth has been a key," said Belle Fourche coach Clay Pottorff. "We haven't had a good first half yet. We have a scoring spurt, knocking down some threes.
"I think we wore down Hill City and Newcastle. We were quick to the 50-50 balls. We had fresher legs.
"Newcastle was ahead of us by nine points. We hit a few threes. Chandler Kerr's dunk at the end of the third quarter gave us a spark. We had a lot of second-chance points in the fourth quarter."
Belle Fourche seniors include: Taten Fox, 5-foot, 11-inch, forward; Cauy Jennings, 6-0, forward (transfer from Spearfish); Carson Gubbrud, 6-3, center; Tate Hostetter, 5-9 guard; Jackson Mailloux, 5-11, guard; Bryce Nicholas, 6-0, forward; Zane Rankin 5-10, center; Michael Leverington, 6-3, forward/center; and Chandler Kerr, 6-4, forward/center.
"Fox and Nicholas are each entering their fourth season on the varsity roster. "I've been playing basketball since first or second grade," Fox said. Both Fox and Nicholas enjoy the competitiveness of the game. "Good defense is my strong suit," said Fox. "My role is to make my teammates better," said Nicholas
Leverington is a three-year member on the Broncs varsity. "He started playing basketball in the third grade. "I like the intensity of the game and having my teammates' back," he said. "My role is to bring energy as a sixth man."
Mailloux is playing in his third season on the varsity. He began playing in the fourth grade. "I enjoy playing basketball with my teammates. My role is to provide good minutes off the bench."
Hostetter, competing in his third year on the varsity, started playing hoops in the sixth grade. He enjoys the competitive nature of the game. "I feel my role is leadership and making sure we are doing things right."
Jennings, Gubbrud, Rankin and Kerr all started playing basketball in the seventh grade. Jennings begins his second season as a varsity player.
"My role is to get rebounds," he said.
Gubbrud and Kerr are both two-year varsity players. "I'm kind of a hype player, keeping players on the floor energized," said Gubbrud. "I like the competitiveness, and when have a good play, the crowd gets motivated," said Kerr. Rankin enters his third season on the Broncs' varsity. "Our team makes it good to come to practice every day," said Rankin. "I feel like I bring energy to the team."
Kelby Olson, a junior and class 11A All-State football honoree, leads the Broncs in scoring. "I bring energy to the team and try to get things going," said Olson.
"We like to get the basketball up and down the floor," said Pottorff. "The boys like to shoot the ball quick. They can get hot quick. I don't want them playing in shackles. I hope to get to the point of having one bad shot in five possessions.
"We're starting to play with more urgency off the ball on defense. We have a ways to go defensively with consistency. We're getting there."
Pottorff views a tough Black Hills Conference. "St. Thomas More has tough, hard-nosed kids with a star player in Ryder Kirsch. Hot Springs has two transfers from Crawford, Neb. Custer is led by Nolan Patzlaff. The pieces fell together for Sturgis. Ryan Garland is one of the better scorers in the state."
In Region 8A, Pottorff said More, Rapid City Christian, Custer and Hot Springs will all field tough squads. "It would be nice to get to the Round of Sixteen," said Pottorff. "If we make progress, I see us in the mix."