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Arlee boys make basketball history with first state championship

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As the scoreboard clock hit 0:00 and the buzzer sounded, the Arlee Warriors’ bench rushed out onto the court in celebration. They had done it; the Warriors had become state champions.

“It feels amazing,” Warriors junior guard Will Mesteth said.

On Saturday night in front of a loud and nearly sold-out Brick Breeden Fieldhouse crowd at the State C boys’ basketball tournament, the Warriors brought home their first state champions’ trophy in school history with a 71-67 victory over the Manhattan Christian Eagles.

The Eagles raced out to a quick 6-0 lead over the Warriors. Warriors head coach Zanen Pitts called a time out to settle the boys down. “I had to stop and get their minds refocused,” coach Pitts said.

The Eagles finished the first quarter with a 19-13 advantage over Arlee.

During the second quarter, the Eagles had a 28-19 lead. However, by halftime, the Warriors had whittled the nine-point deficit down to three.

At halftime, the players initially closed the locker room to the coaching staff and had a players’ only meeting. With intense emotion players challenged each other to start relying on and believing in each other, and discussed things they needed to tweak in their game for the second half before letting the coaches in.

It must have worked.

It was an all Arlee start to the third quarter. The Warriors surged ahead 40- 37 in a span of 43 seconds, turning a five-point deficit into a three-point lead.

The contest went back and forth between the two teams until the 3:22 mark in the fourth quarter when Warrior Alex Moran sunk a 3-pointer from the corner, giving the Warriors a 61-54 lead. From there, the Warriors held on to clinch their first-ever state title.

“It’s pretty great,” Warriors junior guard Phillip Malatare said. “It’s a great feeling. I can’t explain it.”

Tyler Tanner led the way for the Warriors with a game-high 24 points.

On Thursday, the Warriors started their championship run with a 93-77 victory over Plenty Coups in the opening round.

In the game, Malatare scored a game-high 32 points, grabbed 15 rebounds, dished out nine assists, snatched six steals and blocked three shots. Mesteth scored 26 points and Tanner scored 22 more for the Warriors.

In Friday’s 81-71 victory over Hays-Lodgepole, Mesteth sunk 6 of 7 from 3-point land for a gamehigh 28 points, while Tanner chimed in with 26 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double and Malatare added 19 points.

On Sunday afternoon, the state champions came home to a warm welcome of sirens and fans.

Arlee 93, Plenty Coups 77

Plenty Coups 19 21 23 14 - 77

Arlee 17 33 20 23 - 93

Arlee - Will Mesteth 26, Phillip Malatare 32, Lane Johnson 4, Tyler Tanner 22, Greg Whitesell 5, Ivory Brien 2, Issac Fisher 2.

Arlee 81, Hays-Lodgepole 71

Arlee 11 29 16 25 - 81

Hays-Lodgepole 12 17 19 23 - 71

Arlee - Will Mesteth 28, Tyler Tanner 26, Phillip Malatare 19, Greg Whitesell 5, Alex Moran 3.

Arlee 71, Manhattan Christian 67

Arlee 13 19 15 24 - 71

Manhattan 19 16 11 21 - 67

Arlee - Tyler Tanner 24, Phillip Malatare 20, Will Mesteth 17, Alex Moran 6, Lane Johnson 3, Greg Whitesell 1.

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