Polson’s Andrew Curley had a dream performance Friday night at the State A basketball tournament. The Pirates junior came off the bench to hit all seven of his shots in the first half, six of them 3-pointers, and the Pirates held a 30-20 lead at the break over Miles City.
But Curley’s 20 points, the hundreds of fans at Great Falls’ Four Seasons Arena chanting his name, even his mere presence in a Pirates’ uniform, are all the more special considering where he was a year ago.
Homeless. In trouble with the law. At his third school in three years.
Last February, Curley was sleeping on a friend’s grandmother’s couch with no home to call his own.
The Lame Deer native from southeastern Montana bounced around the state after his mother died of leukemia in 2006. He’d lived with her boyfriend before a falling out forced his first move.
Then with his aunt and grandmother in Helena. Then with another aunt in St. Ignatius, before expulsions from Mission, Two Eagle River and Ronan high schools.
After an alcohol violation arrest last February, a Polson couple took in the 17-year-old with hopes of giving him some stability. Part of that involved basketball, a love of Curley’s though he’d never played organized ball before.
“He’s the best open gym player we have,” Polson head coach Brad Pluff said. “You play with no rules (or referees), he’s the best player and goes out and plays. When you add a little structure, he struggles with it. He’s had a tough time this year, he has.”
Curley’s season high scoring this year had been 11 points, he said. Until Friday night.
The 5-foot-8 guard’s shot caught fire like it’d been drenched in gasoline. He hit three 3-pointers in the first quarter, then three more in the second against Miles City as the Pirates pulled out the victory to advance to Saturday’s consolation action.
“I’m living the dream,” said Curley, who has played in front of much of his remaining family during the tournament in Great Falls. “I never thought I’d be playing on this floor.”
But Pluff knew. He’d seen the potential too many times in the Pirates’ home gym to think Curley wouldn’t burst onto the scene like this eventually. It was just a question of when, he said.
“I knew this night was going to come for him,” Pluff said. “He’s a good shooter. In practice, he lights it up. We’ve been waiting for that right situation and tonight was that night, obviously.”