The Arlee and Manhattan Christian boys basketball teams met for the Western C Divisional Tournament title for the third straight year on Saturday night.
For the second year in a row, the Warriors bested the Eagles.
Arlee ran past Manhattan Christian, 85-67, in the Maroon Activities Center.
Ennis, which did not play the Eagles during the tournament, will face Manhattan Christian in a 6 p.m. challenge game Monday at the MAC. The winner will advance with Arlee to the Class C state tournament.
Coach Zanen Pitts said it was a game to remember for the Warriors.
“That’s what memories are about,” Pitts said. “Before the game even started, I told the boys I wanted them to take a moment and to reflect on what was about to happen. These are very few moments in life and we’re playing in back-to-back championships. I don’t know if many teams on the rez have done that before.”
Arlee made its move during the second half.
The Warriors led the Eagles 41-34 at the start of the third quarter, before opening on a 7-0 run to push their lead to double digits. It took Manhattan Christian more than two minutes to score its first field goal of the half.
But Arlee, which excelled behind the arc all night, went to work. Senior Alex Moran, who Pitts called an X-factor despite his short stature, hit his fourth 3-pointer of the night to push its lead to 15.
The Eagles ran into foul trouble down the stretch, with four starters racking up three or four fouls apiece.
The Warriors carried an 18-point into the final quarter, and the Eagles never dug themselves out of their hole. Manhattan Christian’s shots didn’t fall as Arlee hit back-to-back treys for an 82-59 lead.
Once again, the Warriors were smiling and holding up the hardware at the end of the game. And it was the Eagles' first loss to a Class C team this season.
“We didn’t play as well as we needed to,” coach Jeff Bellach said. “That’s a good team. I thought they shot the ball well and they turned us over, that’s something you can’t do against them. I feel like our guards were just not quite ready for that pressure. I’ll take a little of the blame for that, but we knew it was coming.”
Arlee was led by junior Phillip Malatare's 26 points, seven assists and seven rebounds. Junior Will Metesh added 18 points, helpin the Warriors go 8 for 19 behind the 3-point arc as a team.
One advantage the Eagles had over the Warriors was height. Three of Manhattan Christian’s starters clocked in at 6-foot-3 or taller, and their bench had similar height. They tried to use their height to their advantage all evening, but Pitts’ squad came prepared for that pressure.
The Warriors opened the game with a 6-0 run as the Eagles struggled with Arlee’s defensive pressure. Manhattan Christian's first field goal didn’t come until three minutes into the game.
Manhattan Christian found its rhythm and tied the game up when Ramirez hit a pair of free throws, but Moran drained his first trey of the evening to grab back the lead for Arlee.
Malatare scored the Warriors' final eight points of the quarter, giving his team a 24-21 lead heading into the second.
The towering Eagles worked the paint in the second quarter with Lodine and Ramirez, as the Warriors zipped around the court.
Malatare scored the final bucket of the frame as he pushed around the Eagles defenders.
The Eagles were led by Ramirez with 21 points and 13 rebounds. Also chipping in was Lodine with 15 points. Manhattan Christian dominated the boards and outrebounded Arlee 42-28.
While Pitts and the Warriors celebrated, he said it’s time to move on.
“It’s my job to ignore the moment and move on,” he said. “It means nothing if we don’t win next week. All the cards are in our hand. We’re No. 1, we’re back-to-back divisional champs, we’re three-time district champs, we played in the state championship last year, but we’re a completely new team. We’ve rewritten the script, we changed our style of ball. … I gotta go in, put the trophies under the jerseys and start getting my mind right.”
ENNIS 47, TWIN BRIDGES 31
Jake Knack scored 20 points and Ty Morgan added 13 to lead the Mustangs past the Falcons.
The game was close throughout the first half and a good part of the third quarter but the Mustangs went on 16-2 run to put the game away.
Ennis was leading, 28-19, with time running out in the third quarter when Morgan hit a 3-pointer from the right corner to deal a major blow to Twin’s comeback hopes.
It was the third time in four games that Ennis has beaten Twin Bridges. The Mustangs’ only loss to the Falcons this season came in last week’s district tournament.
Wesley Harshbarger led Twin Bridges with 10 points.