Two big games against local rivals and two big wins.
With a pair of victories against Hot Springs and St. Regis, the Plains Horsemen boys basketball team cemented itself as a top contender in the upcoming Montana Class C Western District 14C tournament Feb. 20-22 in Ronan.
The Horsemen began their successful weekend with a 65-52 win over visiting Hot Springs last Thursday night in Plains. They then traveled to St. Regis in the highly anticipated rematch with the Tigers and won that game 57-48.
Plains fell behind early to the Savage Heat, who got 15 first-quarter points from conference scoring leader Brandon Knudsen. With Knudsen hitting from all over the court, including a 3-pointer and a 6-for-7 effort from the free throw line, Hot Springs took a narrow 18-17 lead after the opening quarter.
The Horsemen turned up their defense pressure effort in the second quarter and held Knudsen and company to seven points (four more from Knudsen) on their way to a 33-25 halftime lead.
However, in the third quarter Hot Springs sophomore Jack McAllister began to heat up from long distance, dropping in a pair of three pointers and leading a shift in the game’s rebounding balance in favor of the Savage Heat. At the end of three quarters of play, Hot Springs had cut the Plains lead to 43-41.
The Savage Heat pulled within a point in the early minutes of the fourth quarter, 45-44, but were unable to take the lead. With 3:41 remaining in the final stanza, McAllister fouled out and Plains was able to pull ahead to stay on their way to the home win.
Plains senior guard Treydon Brouillette, who led the Horsemen in scoring, dumped in 12 of his 21 points during the fourth quarter in leading Plains to victory. Junior forward Kade Pardee added 16 points and was instrumental in controlling the boards for the Horsemen.
Knudsen led all scorers with 26 points, while McAllister added 14.
Saturday, the Horsemen traveled to St. Regis for the rematch with the once-beaten Tigers. Plains handed the Tigers their only loss of the year prior to Friday night’s encounter, in a game played on the Horsemen’s home court.
With a packed and vocal crowd in attendance, the two teams traded baskets in the opening quarter, that ended with Plains holding a slim 18-14 lead after the first eight minutes of play.
That lead would be reversed at the end of the first half, as the host Tigers took a four-point, 28-24 lead into the intermission. A pair of three-pointers each by senior Ian Farris and eighth-grader John Pruitt were key to St. Regis in the second quarter.
Pardee, who was limping noticeably during warm-ups and the early going, and senior point guard Jake Weyers fueled a third quarter Plains charge that allowed them to reclaim the lead 40-38 with one quarter left in the game. Pardee shook off his thigh injury from the night before and tossed in 12 points in the second half.
He would lead all scorers with 19 and was instrumental in helping the Horsemen pull away in the late stages of the fourth quarter on their way to a regular season sweep of the Tigers.
Weyers add 13 points for Plains, including a trio of three-pointers. Nathan Feliksa added 11 for the Horsemen.
Pruitt and junior post Andrew Sanford shared team scoring honors for St. Regis with 11 points each.
Plains is now 13-3 on the year while the loss dropped St. Regis to 14-2 with both of their losses coming at the hands of the Horsemen. The two teams figure to be top contenders in the coming District playoffs.
In the last weekend of the regular season, Plains hosts Noxon this Friday night then travels to Two Eagle River Saturday evening to close out the regular season.
St. Regis, meanwhile hosts regional rival Hot Springs Friday night then closes out their regular season with a game in Lincoln.