What is the hottest basketball team in Sanders County right now? It would be hard to argue that the Hot Springs boys have raised the temperature of their recent games. They are coming off a 2-0 weekend with impressive victories over county rivals Plains and Noxon.
Sparked by the hot 3-point shooting of junior guard Brandon Knudsen, the Savage Heat methodically built a 16-9 first-quarter lead over Plains and were ahead by as many as 32 points in recording a 66-35 District 14C win last Friday at Hot Springs.
Senior Tyler Knudsen netted a season-high 24 points in leading Hot Springs to a 59-44 win at Noxon last Saturday.
Plains roared back with a vengeance Saturday, more than doubling the Horsemen’s offensive output from the night before in coasting to an 83-54 win at home over St. Regis.
Noxon was eventually no match for District 14C front-runner Arlee on Friday as the Warriors extended a 14-point first-period lead and coasted to a 72-27 win.
Going into the last week of the regular season, Arlee is unbeaten in district games at 11-0. Charlo is 9-1, Hot Springs and Plains both 5-5, Noxon 4-7, St. Regis 2-9 and Two Eagle River 1-10. Arlee hosts Charlo on Thursday in a key league game.
In other District 14C games this week, St. Regis visits Hot Springs on Thursday. Plains is at Noxon and Hot Springs at Charlo on Friday. On Saturday, Plains hosts Two Eagle River. In a non-conference game Tuesday, Arlee played Loyola in Missoula.
IN THE Hot Springs-Plains game, Brandon Knudsen sank a trio of 3-pointers in the opening quarter and finished with 32 points. The Heat led 21-9 after one quarter and the count went to 62-30 with a few minutes to play. Tyler Carr had all nine of his points in the second quarter for the Heat.
“We just shot good overall,” Hot Springs head coach Cameron Barber said, and his team was 12-for-13 from the foul line. Brandon Knudsen was 7-for-7.
Barber wanted to prevent the Horsemen from using their size inside to their advantage.
“That was our whole game plan, to stop (Derick) Curry from scoring, and pressuring their guards,” Barber said. “We wanted to shut everything down.” Guarded mostly by Tyler Knudsen, Curry took only five shots.
Plains did win the board battle, 44-33. The Horsemen had 15 offensive rebounds, but only three second-chance points.
The Heat had only nine turnovers, easily a season low.
“We really put it all together,” Barber said.
“They played a great game,” credited Plains head coach Tyrel Allen. “They outplayed us in every aspect of basketball.” His team shot just 22 percent from the field.
Carr, Jack McAllister and Kyle Lawson had nine points each for Hot Springs. Carr and Tyler Knudsen each had six rebounds. Luke Waterbury led in steals with five and McAllister had three. McAllister and Tyler Knudsen had four assists each.
Junior Esvin Reyes had his best offensive game of the year for Plains, netting 11 points and hustling for eight offensive boards. Treydon Brouillette added 10 points.
HOT SPRINGS led Noxon 12-5, 26-22 and 38-33 at the quarter stops, then outscored the Red Devils 21-11 in the fourth period.
“It took us awhile to get in the groove,” Barber said. “In the fourth, we finally kicked it in.”
“Hot Springs came out and jumped on us early,” Noxon head coach Bart Haflich said. “We were settling for jumpers and not getting to the hoop. We just couldn’t score enough to get over the hump.”
The Heat outscored Noxon by 18 points at the free-throw line, going 19-for-28 while the Devils were 1-for-3.
Carr had a big game on the boards with 14 rebounds for the Heat. Brandon Knudsen tossed in 18 points and had five assists. Tyler Knudsen had six boards.
Logan Wood led the Devils with 17 points, and Rylan Weltz added 16. Alex Currie was held to a single point. Weltz and Levi Brubaker were the top board men for Noxon.
PLAINS PLAYED a much different game against St. Regis than the night before. The Horsemen poured in 46 points in the first half, leading by 20 at the break.
“The boys played with a lot more energy,” Allen said. “They come out flat sometimes. This was by far the best scoring half we’ve had. We wanted to rebound and push the ball. We did a really good job of getting out on transition and attacking the rim. That opened it up.”
Through the first three quarters, Plains had only five turnovers.
Jake Weyers led the Horsemen with a career-high 21 points. Brouillette had 15 points and eight rebounds, and Matt McCracken added 11 points and seven boards. Weyers and Brouillette each had three steals.
Jake Weyers career high 21; Brouillette 15, McCracken 11
Noxon led Arlee early, 7-4, but the advantage was short-lived.
“They’re pretty potent,” Haflich said of the Warriors. “We didn’t transition as well as we should have.”
Weltz led Noxon with nine points.
SENIOR NIGHT celebrations this week are Thursday for Hot Springs, Friday for Noxon, and Saturday for Plains.