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Arlee Warriors win third consecutive divisional basketball tournament

Story and photos by                                                      Rob Zolman/Valley Journal

HAMILTON – Entering the season as odds-on favorites to repeat as Class C state champions, the Arlee Warriors boys’ basketball team won their third straight Western C Divisional title on Saturday evening with a decisive 77-33 victory over the Plains Horsemen.

In the first round of the divisional playoffs on Thursday, the bench had a big night for the Warriors as Billy Fisher recorded 23 points to lead the attack in a 101-31 rout of Darby.

“They got some good minutes and played solid,” Warriors head coach Zanen Pitts said of his team’s bench players. “We are coming around and are getting deeper.”

Four other Warriors posted double digit points on the evening, Greg Whitesell, 20, Isaac Fisher, 16, Will Mesteth, 12 and Phillip Malatare, 11.

In Friday night’s semifinal, the Warriors might have had flashbacks to the end of last season as they defeated Manhattan Christian 69-60 in a rematch of last year’s state title game.

While both Mesteth and Malatare battled flu-like symptoms during the whole game, it didn’t seem to hold down Mesteth much as he scored a game-high 25 points to lead four Arlee players in double figures. Whitesell had 16 points, Malatare scored 12 and Lane Johnson netted 11.

“Their hearts are stinkin’ big,” Pitts said. “They are not going to quit. They are going to come at you all game and you better have a bigger heart than us if you are going to beat us.”

The Warriors had raced out to a 21-6 advantage before the Plains Horsemen could battle back to finish the first quarter 29-14 in the divisional championship game on Saturday evening.

By halftime, Arlee extended their lead by 21 points taking a 47-26 score into the locker room.

Coming out of the half, the Warriors went on a 20-point run to place the game way out of reach. 

A Malatare behind-the-back pass to Mesteth, who then sank a three-point shot drew loud cheers of appreciation from the Warrior fans, as the Warriors closed out the third quarter 71-30.

In the final frame, the Warriors slowed down the pace of the game and held the Plains offense to only three points. 

“They performed really well,” Pitts said. “They played hard and I am really proud of them.” 

Mesteth scored a game-high 21 points, Whitesell scored 20 and Malatare chipped in 19 more.

The Warriors play Belt Huskies in the first round of the State Class C Boys’ Basketball Tournament at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Butte Civic Center.

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