Coaches in Class C boys’ basketball in Montana would likely agree that the 14C District, which includes Sanders, Lake and Mineral county teams, is arguably the top conference in the class — when you consider the quality from top to bottom.
Teams like Plains, Hot Springs, Noxon, St. Regis and Two Eagle River were chasing front-runners Arlee and Charlo all season long, and it was the two-time defending state champion Warriors and Vikings that will represent the 14C District at the Western C Divisional Basketball Tournament this Thursday through Saturday in Butte. Games are played at the MAC — the Maroon Activity Center — at Butte Central High School.
Arlee continued its run toward its third straight state title, going unbeaten in conference play and disposing of Charlo 80-49 in Saturday night’s 14C District tourney title game at Joe McDonald Gym at SKC College in Pablo.
Plains, the No. 3 seed going in, finished third — rallying for a 52-47 victory over Hot Springs on Saturday afternoon. Since Plains had lost to the second-place team, Charlo, earlier in the tourney, the Horsemen could not challenge the Vikings for a divisional berth as the second seed. Only the top two teams qualify.
In their tourney opener, Plains slipped by sixth-seeded St. Regis 59-55. Charlo pulled away in the final two minutes to top the Horsemen in the semifinals, 53-42. Plains earned a berth in the third-place game with a 40-32 win over Noxon.
Hot Springs, the No. 4 seed, posted a 57-48 win over fifth-seeded Noxon in the first round. Arlee cruised to an 87-55 win over the Savage Heat in the semifinals. Hot Springs moved into the third-place contest by outscoring St. Regis 77-69 Saturday morning.
Seventh-seeded Two Eagle River lost its first two 14C District tourney games, falling to Charlo 66-48 and St. Regis, 71-47.
Hot Springs 57,
Hot Springs held Noxon to two points in the opening quarter and led 23-15 at halftime as the fourth-seeded Savage Heat posted a 57-48 win over the No. 5 Red Devils in their tourney opener.
Senior guard Logan Wood connected on four 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, where the Red Devils netted 25 point, but it was too little, too late for Noxon.
“We did play pretty well. Our defense is what won that game,” Hot Springs head coach Cameron Barber said.
Noxon had a dozen turnovers in the first quarter, and many of those were turned into transition buckets. That helped Hot Springs mount a 10-0 lead.
“We battled back,” Noxon head coach Bart Haflich said, as the Devils got within 16-15 late in the first half. “We took care of the ball better in the second half. We struggled with that all year, starting slow. We didn’t come out with the energy I like to see.”
Rebounding was a plus for Hot Springs. “I’ve been preaching that all year, if we wanted to be successful,” Barber said. “We talked about playing at 100 percent for 32 minutes.”
In the turnover department, Hot Springs had 18 and Noxon 28.
Brandon Knudsen led the Heat with 20 points and eight steals. Tyler Knudsen had 14 points and six boards. Tyler Carr added 10 rebounds and six points. Jack McAllister had eight points and three steals.
Wood finished with 16 points for Noxon. Alex Currie had 11, and Rylan Weltz nine.
Two Eagle River 48
Second-seeded Charlo took control early via a 23-point first period and eased past No. 7 seed Two Eagle River 66-48 in their first-round game Thursday.
Landers Smith led Charlo with 23 points, and Nate Delaney added 17.
Kesean Burke paced TER with 15 points, and Travis Pierre netted 13.
Plains 59, St. Regis 55
Both third-seeded Plains and No. 6 St. Regis started strong offensively in their rough-and-tumble first-round contest, and it was the Plainsmen who had to rally with a 23-point final quarter en route to a 59-55 victory.
Action was often interrupted by free throws. Plains shot 40, converting 25 while St. Regis was 14-for-21. A trio of Tigers fouled out, all among the team’s top scorers.
“We just didn’t come out and play the first half,” Plains head coach Tyrel Allen said. “We had no energy. We wanted to get more aggressive.” They did that in the second half, going to the foul line for 26 free throws. “Our game plan was to attack the rim.”
Despite the fast pace of the game, the Horsemen had only 12 turnovers.
Plains senior Matt McCracken open his final 14C District Tournament with a double-double, netting 16 points and collecting 13 rebounds. Treydon Brouillette had 17 points, Jason Weyers added 11 and Derick Curry nine. Esvin Reyes had four steals.
St. Regis 71,
Two Eagle River 47
St. Regis stayed alive in the consolation bracket with a 71-47 win over Two Eagle River, eliminating the Eagles.
The Tigers led 14-4, 33-15 and 57-28 at the quarter stops.
Andrew Sanford led St. Regis with 17 points, and Ian Farris had 16 and Tanner Day 10.
Dom Finley paced Two Eagle River with 11 points, and Travis Pierre and Anthony Charlo had nine each.
Charlo 53, Plains 42
Reminiscent of an earlier meeting, the Plains-Charlo boys’ semifinals Friday was hotly contested and close until the final minute. There were numerous ties and lead changes.
Charlo led 25-18 at halftime, but the Horsemen stayed on their game. With Landers Smith back in the game after foul trouble, the Vikings took advantage of three missed Plains free throws to lead 44-41 on two Conner Koenig charities with 1:46 remaining. Two more foul shots by Koenig and a pair by Smith pushed the margin to 48-41 as Plains suffered from untimely turnovers.
Charlo went on a 9-1 run down the stretch, scoring all its points at the line.
“There were some tough plays that changed it up,” Allen said. “They made more free throws than we shot.”
Brouillette getting into foul trouble and having limited playing time was a huge factor, according to the coach. “It definitely changed our offensive flow,” Allen said.
The Horsemen had only 12 turnovers in the loss.
Weyers led Plains with 15 points and four steals. McCracken had eight points and 12 rebounds. Reyes and Curry had seven points each, and Brouillette was limited to five.
Koenig led Charlo with 18 points and Smith added 14, and Nate Delaney had eight.
Hot Springs 55
Hot Springs was not match for Arlee in Friday’s semifinals as the Warriors started with a 12-2 run and led 26-8 after on quarter. It was 46-26 at intermission, despite a Kyle Lawson off-balance 3-pointer at the buzzer for the Savage Heat.
“They came out hot,” Barber said. “It was kind of an ugly game for us. The second half we started to figure things out. We were playing (in the first half) like five individuals instead of as a team. We had a better second half.”
Arlee’s vaunted pressure defense took its toll on Hot Springs, which had 35 turnovers.
McAllister had 17 points, going 5-for-9 on 3-pointers. Tyler Knudsen had 12 points and eight rebounds. Tyler Carr added nine points and 10 boards.
Lane Johnson led Arlee with 20 points, Whitesell 15 and Isaac Fisher had 14.
Plains 40, Noxon 32
Noxon was neck-and-neck with Plains in Saturday morning’s loser-out contest at Two Eagle River School. The Devils led 21-20 at halftime.
The Horsemen rallied behind their transition game to lead 31-23 after three quarters. Early in the fourth, a key steal by Orion Pry-Hyde and hustling save by Reyes helped keep the momentum going in Plains’ way.
A drought is the best way to describe 12 minutes of clock time throughout the third quarter and midway through the fourth, where Noxon went without a single field goal. In the meantime, Plains build an 11-point lead. The Devils made a brief run, but got no closer than six.
Curry sank two free throws with 19 second remaining to seal the victory for the Horsemen. The senior was 7-for-8 from the foul line in the game.
“They were frustrated,” Allen said of the Devils. “We made mor three throws than they shot. We had a decent game plan for Rylan (Weltz).”
The coach gave credit due to Reyes for his defensive effort on the 6-foot-5 Noxon junior.
“I was real happy with the way the boys played with their backs against the wall,” Halfich said of the Devils, “but we had a big drought. We turned the ball over and made some silly ones. We settled for jump shots. They packed it in on our big guys.”
Curry led Plains with 15 points. Curry and McCracken each had nine rebounds. The Horsemen had nine team steals. Allen noted that Plains players took 12 charges during the tournament.
Weltz led Noxon with 11 points.
Noxon will lose five valuable seniors. They are Levi Brubaker, Currie, Owen Fisher, Eddie VanVleet and Wood.
“They’re good ones to have in the program,” Haflich said. “It’s always sad to see them go. I hope the other guys pick up the torch and go.”
Hot Springs 77, St. Regis 69 (loser out)
Hot Springs and St. Regis lit up the scoreboard often Saturday in a loser-out game in the SKC gym.
The Heat smoked the nets for 52 first-half points, and led by 18 at the break.
“We came out pretty hot,” Barber said, and he was able to “sub in” younger players much of the second half. The Tigers rallied to within eight points down the stretch, but got no closer.
Brandon Knudsen had a hot hand, scoring 28 points for the Heat. Tyler Knudsen had a splendid double-double with 17 points and 12 rebounds. McAllister had 12 points and four assists.
Tanner Day led St. Regis with 26 points, and Caleb Ball had 17.
Hot Springs 47
Hot Springs was right with Plains, but was hampered by foul trouble, according to Barber. Brandon Knudsen, Carr and McAllister all had four fouls at the same juncture, so the Heat had to back off defensively. In addition, Luke Waterbury was bothered by cramps and saw limited time in the second half.
For Plains, McCracken rolled an ankle in the first quarter. He came back to play, and finished with 13 rebounds. Allen said the senior averaged a double-double in the tournament. “He played great,” Allen said.
Brouillette was the catalyst for the Horsemen, netting 17 of his game-high 28 points in the fourth quarter. “We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” Allen said.
Hot Springs had only 12 turnovers in its season finale, and Plains had 14.
Weyers had eight points and six assists, and McCracken and Curry six each.
Tyler Knudsen had nine rebounds and Brandon Knudsen five assists for the Heat.
Hot Springs will lose the Tylers — Knudsen and Carr, both very valuable players with their hard-nosed style of play.
Plains will lose a trio of seniors — McCracken, Curry and Pry-Hyde, and junior Nathan McNulty will “age out.” Allen said Curry and McCracken are “two great ballplayers. “Matt is a Swiss Army knife. He averaged a double-double for the season (points and rebounds). He was willing to give the ball up to his teammates and that was awesome. You can’t replace guys like that.
“We’ll find our identity next year,” Allen added. “The guys are already getting in the weight room.”
Arlee 80, Charlo 49 (championship)
Arlee made it a sweep of Charlo so far this season, getting out to an early lead and cruising to an 80-49 win in Saturday night’s championship game. Since Charlo defeated Hot Springs during the tourney, there was no boys’ challenge game.