Hot Springs boys basketball splits with Clark Fork, St. Regis

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley press | January 13, 2021 12:00 AM

Following a hard-fought loss to visiting Clark Fork in their boys 14C opener Thursday night, Hot Springs senior Lincoln Slonaker saw better things ahead for the Savage Heat.

He was right on the money as the Heat rebounded from the 56-50 loss to Clark Fork with an equally hard-fought win over St. Regis on the Tigers home floor Friday evening.

“We all had some jitter for the opening game,” Slonaker said after the Thursday loss. “We know we are better than that and I think the way we came back after a big deficit (against the Mountain Cats) shows what we can be capable of.”

In the win Friday night in St. Regis, junior forward Jack McAllister poured in a team-high 29 points to help hold off a furious Tigers rally as the Savage Heat prevailed 67-64.

Against St. Regis, sophomore forward Nathan Lawhead scored six first quarter points to offset an equal number from Clark Fork sophomore guard Caleb Ball as the two teams battled to a 10-10 tie at the end of the first eight minutes of play.

McAllister score eight of his 29 points in the second quarter, a total matched by Ball. At the end of the first half of play, Hot Springs held a razor thin 29-28 lead.

Ball, who also scored 29 points, added six more points in the third quarter, while McAllister erupted for nine as the Savage Heat outscored the Tigers 19-9 to take a 48-37 advantage heading into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter belonged to St. Regis center Andrew Sanford who tallied 14 points in the final quarter, to finish the game with 18.

However, McAllister added 11 more points in the fourth quarter, including a 3-point bomb as the Heat fought off the Tigers’ rally to secure the win and square their early season record a 1-1.

St. Regis, which opened the season with a 67-53 win over Darby last week, fell to 1-1 on the year.

Tigers coach Jesse Allan, acknowledged prior to the season that depth and youth needed development, said it was a “tough loss” attributed to a poor shooting night from the perimeter while giving credit to the Savage Heat.

“It was a tough one,” Allan said. “Hot Springs battled hard and we shot about 10 percent from 3-point range. All the credit to those guys though, they proved again that they work hard.”

He also had words of praise for McAllister.

“Jack had some big plays in the third and fourth quarters”, Allan said. “He played his tail off.”

The turn-around performance against St. Regis helped heal the sting of a scrappy comeback effort that fell short against Clark Fork Thursday evening in Hot Springs.

In that game, the Savage Heat fell behind early, trailing 20-9 by the end of the first quarter. Mountain Cats big men Carson Callison and Aaron Waddle scored eight points apiece in the opening quarter as Clark Fork used an aggressive defense and rebounding to their advantage.

Callison continued to dominate inside play in the second quarter, adding eight more points to his night, before running into foul trouble in the second half.

By halftime, the Mountain Cats had built a 35-21 lead over Hot Springs and seemed in control of the contest.

Four Savage Heat players scored points in the third quarter, paced by the five-point effort by junior forward Kyle Lawson, as they began to chip away at the Mountain Cats’ lead. The Heat outscored Clark Fork 13-8 in the third stanza cutting the Cats advantage to single digits 43-34 with eight minutes to play.

Lawson led the Savage Heat comeback charge in the fourth quarter, scoring 12 points as Hot Springs began to assert itself on the boards. They pulled to within two, 48-46, on a layup by Spanish exchange student Mario Garcia Lopez, a 6-3 junior.

Waddle sank three crucial free throws in the waning minute of the game and Clark Fork got five points from Danner Haskins to hold off the Hot Springs surge and secure the win.

“It was a good win,” Callison said. “I got into some foul trouble but the team held on. We’ve got some good players on this team.”

Lawson led all scorers with a game-high 21, while McAllister chipped in with 10 for the Heat. Waddle and Callison scored 18 each to lead Clark Fork.

Next up for Hot Springs boys is a home game this Friday against Charlo, which handled Plains in its season opener last Friday.