Tuesday, June 18, 2024

St Regis boys finish fourth at divisional

Valley Press | February 28, 2024 12:00 AM

While watching their likely second round opponent, Manhattan Christian, take apart a solid Drummond team during the Western C Divisional tournament this past weekend in Frenchtown, St. Regis assistant basketball coach Brandon Iverson summed up the task at hand regarding the top-seeded MC Eagles.

“They’re very good,” Iverson said. “But we look at it as a matter of if you are going to be the best, you have to beat the best”.

Those words turned out to be prophetic for the Tigers, who advanced to a semi-final meeting with MC following their first round 69-52 romp over the Valley Christian Eagles Thursday afternoon.

That set up the highly anticipated match up between St. Regis and Manhattan, both number one seeds coming into the tourney on the strength of their District championship wins a week earlier.

The Eagles swept through the 12-C regular season with a 10-0 record and followed that with the District title last week. St. Regis knocked off run and gun Two Eagle River, also two weekends ago, to earn the number one seed out of the 14C conference.

A collision was in the cards between the tall and athletic Eagles and the in-your-face defense played by coach Jesse Allan’s St. Regis squad.

In the end, and with help from cold shooting in the second quarter by St. Regis, Manhattan Christian pulled away to a 43-31 win and a spot in the West Division championship game versus Harrison.

The two teams engaged in a rapid pace track meet/wrestling match in the opening quarter, which ended with MC holding a narrow, 8-6 lead.

Then the Tigers went cold in the second quarter, their trademark three-pointers not finding the mark as they were outscored by the Eagles 15-4. That produced a 23-10 halftime advantage that enabled MC to hold off the scrappy Tigers the rest of the way.

St Regis regrouped at halftime and outscored the Eagles 11-9 in the third quarter to nip two points off the lead, but MC matched St. Regis basket for basket the rest of the game to secure the win and boost their season mark to 21-1. St. Regis dropped to 18-4 on the year and fell into the consolation round with a faint hope of claiming one of two state championship berths still flickering.

Freshman Conner Lulis and senior forward John Pruitt each scored nine points for the Tigers, while Jack Scott led all scorers with 11 points for MC.

“We battled for sure,” said coach Allan after the game. “I’m very proud of our guys. We just didn’t make enough shots in that second quarter to give ourselves a chance to pull out a win. Manhattan is tall and long, certainly not something we see until this (Division round) weekend”.

St. Regis opened the tourney with a relatively comfortable win over a game but out-gunned Valley Christian team. The Tigers built a 30-23 halftime lead behind the shooting and rebounding of Pruitt, who had a game best 23 points in the victory. The Tigers also got 12 points from 6-1 junior forward Kaden Sanders and 10 each from Lulis and Ayden Rael.

The loss to Manhattan moved the Tigers into a loser-out game versus Lincoln, one of this season’s surprise teams which came into the tourney with an 18-4 season record in 13C play. The Lynx battled St. Regis to a 21-19 advantage at the end of the first half, then outscored St. Regis 16-7 in the third quarter to take a 35-28 lead heading into the final quarter of regulation play.

Then Pruitt showed why he is regarded as one of the best, if not the best, players in the West Division. With 2:30 left in the game and the Tigers trailing 38-34, Pruitt dropped a long three to pull St. Regis within one. He then stole the ball from Lincoln and popped a two pointer to give the Tigers the lead back after Lincoln tied the score at .

Pruitt added another three with 1:20 to go, then sank a pair of free throws with 50 seconds remaining to boost the Tigers lead to 42-38.

Lulis closed out the win with a pair of free throws with three ticks left on the game clock and St. Regis up by five, 45-40.

In all, Pruitt scored 10 points in the final two minutes of the game to help the Tigers snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.

Pruitt had a game-high 15 points for the Tigers, who also got 10 from Lulis and nine from Sanders. Dylan Jakushak had 13 points for Lincoln, whose season and tournament run came to an end with the loss.

The win propelled St. Regis into the consolation championship game versus West Yellowstone, which topped Drummond to reach the consolation final. The 12C Wolverines came into that game with an 18-5 season record.

The Wolverines took a 12-10 first quarter lead in the back-and forth contest that looked like it had overtime potential from the beginning. West Yellowstone built a 25-19 halftime lead before the Tigers kicked their offense up a notch with helped from their signature swarming defense.

They outscored the Wolverines 15-8 in the third quarter to slip into a 34-33 lead with one quarter of regulation to play.

West Yellowstone out-pointed St. Regis by one in the fourth quarter, good enough to tie the score at 50-50 and send it into overtime.

The overtime period was undecided until the final two seconds of the game.

West Yellowstone scored two quick two-pointers to open OT. They then cashed in a three-pointer to give the Wolverines a 57-50 lead with three minutes to play. But the Tigers still had some gas in their tank.

With 1:45 to go, junior Ayden Rael scored on a lay-up to make the score 57-52. Lulis then drained a long three to pull the Tigers within two, 57-55 with 58 seconds to play. After calling a timeout with 15 seconds to go, the Tigers inbounded the ball and Lulis broke free for a three-pointer with three second left, but his attempt was just off the mark, clanging off the front of the rim.

The ball bounced into the hands of Pruitt, who launched a three that would have won the game as the final horn sounded, but that shot, too, was off the front of the rim.

Coach Allan had words of praise for his troops, who closed out the season with a 19-5 record and the District 14C regular season and tournament championship in hand.

“It would have been neat to make it to state, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards,” Allan said. “I feel bad for our kids but am so proud of what they have built. As every coach knows, you win some and you lose some, but the journey is worth more than any trophy”.

Manhattan Christian won the championship in the next game of the night, 63-38 over Harrison. The win by MC meant the Lynx, who lost to Harrison earlier in the tournament, had no path to a challenge for the second seed and state berth due to the fact they had already played the second place team.