For the second straight year, the Warriors come from behind in the fourth quarter to win the district championship
Trailing Charlo by 11 points with less than a minute and a half to play in the third quarter in the District 14-C championship game, none of the Warriors panicked – why should they, they’ve been there before.
It was a new league and a new stadium, but the results were the same, as the Warriors erased a fourth-quarter deficit to be crowned district champions for the second year in a row with a 50-47 victory over the Vikings at the Ronan Event Center.
After Viking guard Chance Firestone hit a 3-pointer to put the Vikings up 37-26 with 1:25 left in the third quarter, the Warriors scored eight straight points to end the quarter and went into the final quarter only trailing 37-34. Warrior guard Kasey Bridgewater completely erased the Vikings’ lead with a 3-pointer in the opening possession of the fourth quarter and the Warriors went on to claim their second straight district crown. Last year, they were trailing the Drummond Trojans by five heading into the final quarter of the District 13-C championship game in Missoula, but scored 22 points in the fourth quarter for a 62-59 victory.
“We were in a slump, but we pulled out of it and that’s a really hard thing to do, but we did it,” said Warrior guard Jesse Pfau, who scored the Warriors’ final four points in the third quarter. Pfau, who finished with 12 points, pulled the Warriors within four with 19.5 seconds left in the third quarter on a three-point play started after a Kyle Felsman steal.
After Kody Morigeau put the Warriors up 26-23 with a putback at 6:11 in the third quarter, the potent Warrior offense was held scoreless for nearly five minutes, before Trae Burland ignited the 8-0 run with a 3-pointer at 1:20. Burland scored all six of the Warriors’ bench points on two 3-pointers. The Warriors went 6-for-14 (43 percent) from behind the arc.
Playing with a sprained ankle and at about 80 percent, according to Arlee coach Clyde Tucker, Felsman, who was held to only three points in Arlee’s victory over Hot Springs to start the tournament, finished with a game-high 15 points, with seven of them coming in the fourth quarter. The Arlee senior gave the Warriors a 40-39 lead on a three-point play at 6:40 in the fourth quarter, which was the first time the Warriors led since the 5:33 mark in the third quarter. After Firestone tied the game at 41 with a jump shot at 3:34, Felsman scored on back-to-back trips down the court to give the Warriors a 45-41 lead. From there, the Warriors went 5-for-8 at the foul line to hold on for the 50-47 victory in a back-and-forth game, which had five ties and six lead changes.
“It wasn’t pretty, I’ll tell you that, but it’s really hard to beat a team four times,” Tucker said.
After the Warriors fell behind by 11 in the third quarter, Tucker remained calm on the sidelines.
“Our kids won’t quit. That’s one thing that I know about them. They won’t quit. They’re winners, you know. They just know how to win,” Tucker said.
With the three-point victory, the Warriors (19-1) put an exclamation mark on a dominant season in their first year in District 14-C, where they went 13-0 against divisional opponents, including the preseason and postseason.
The victory also pulled them one step closer to their goal of making state. After falling one game short of that goal last year – they lost 55-49 to Shields Valley in the challenge game – the Warriors’ one purpose has been getting to the state tournament.
“Our main focus has been to make it to state and we’re one step closer than we were last week,” said Felsman, who started on last year’s team. “That’s what we’re hoping to do, especially after being so close last year. This was the first step and this felt really good.”
As painful as the loss to Shields Valley was, Tucker said that the experience of playing at the Western C Divisional Tournament last year will help them this year.
“I think it’s huge. They know where they’re going, they know where they’ll be playing. We’re not the same team as last year, but I think we’re a pretty good team. Hopefully, we’re as good as last year,” Tucker said.
The Warriors started the tournament with a 52-32 victory over the Savage Heat in the semifinals Friday night. After letting Hot Springs hang around the first three quarters, the Warriors put the game away by outscoring the Savage Heat 20-6 in the fourth quarter. Bridgewater scored eight of his game-high 18 points and Morigeau scored eight of his 17 points in the final quarter. Morigeau led the team with 11 rebounds.
The normally accurate Warriors, only shot 34 percent from 2-point range, going 17-for-50. They went 5-for-13 (38.5 percent) behind the arc, with four of the 3-pointers coming in the first quarter. Pfau, who finished with nine points, hit the final 3-pointer in the first quarter at the buzzer to give the Warriors a 16-7 lead.
The Warriors had pushed that lead to 23-10 with 3:20 left to play in the half and looked like they were going to cruise into the finals, but the Savage Heat closed the half on a 10-0 run and only went into the break trailing 23-20.
The Warriors open the Western C Divisional against Twin Bridges at 10:30 Thursday at the Maroon Activity Center in Butte.
Arlee 52, Hot Springs 32
Arlee 16 7 9 20–52
Hot Springs 7 13 6 6–32
ARLEE - Kasey Bridgewater 18, Kody Morigeau 17, Jesse Pfau 9, John Sansavere 5, Kyle Felsman 3.
HOT SPRINGS - Reiley Winebrenner 8, Cody Hoff 5, Tylor Fisher 4, Michael Brooks 2, Trevor Bras 2, Zack Malinak 9, Connor Malinak 2.
Arlee 50, Charlo 47
Charlo 8 13 16 10–47
Arlee 11 13 10 16–50
CHARLO - Chance Rosenbaum 9, Dillon Delaney 9, Chance Firestone 8, Chico Stipe 7, Chance Frame 6, Houston Blevins 5, Garrett Herron 3.
ARLEE - Kyle Felsman 15, Jesse Pfau 12, John Sansavere 10, Trae Burland 6, Kody Morigeau 4, Kasey Bridgewater 3.