BUTTE — For the second season in a row, Manhattan Christian is headed to the state semifinals.
Last season ended with a heartbreaking loss to Arlee in the Class C finals and this year has been all about unfinished business. The Eagles were able to keep previously undefeated Heart Butte at bay in all but the opening moments of the game and finished with a flourish, winning 66-53.
“We did a good job offensively, finding the open guy,” Manhattan Christian head coach Jeff Bellach said. “As a team we settled a little bit in the first half, and especially in that second quarter, late, we were making it tough on ourselves.
“We talked at halftime about being a little bit more patient, a little more precise with our passing. A lot of credit to them, they really took it at us. But I’m proud of our guys, the way we stepped back up.”
Caleb Bellach was outstanding for the Eagles, scoring 25 points and corralling three rebounds while also blocking three shots.
Sophomore Sam Leep had 17 points off the bench for Manhattan Christian, with 15 of those coming in the first half. He helped the Eagles get a bit of breathing room early and helped shift momentum, canning three three-pointers.
“He’s came off the bench all year and scored big for us,” Bellach said. “We had a lot of guys that can get the ball in the hole and he could easily start for us. That was a big spark.”
Riley Spoonhunter led the Warriors with 23 points that included 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. He kept Heart Butte within striking distance most of the game and was part of a run in the third quarter that got the deficit within five.
Shylon Spoonhunter and Isiah Arrow Top Knot were in double-digits with 11 and 10 points, respectively.
PARK CITY 50, FAIRVIEW 44
Even as Fairview closed in during the final minutes of Park City’s first-round Class C State tournament game, the Panthers didn’t panic.
Leaning on senior Rylan Gauthier — 26 points, six rebounds, six steals, and two blocks — Park City hit the shots it needed to down the stretch. They move on to the semifinals with a 50-44 win and will play the winner of Heart Butte and Manhattan Christian.
“Rylan’s solid, he’s been a rock all year for us,” Panther head coach Ben Southworth said. “A senior leader, he just does some great things on the basketball court.
"He’s a great kid and a great leader for us.”
Park City led by 13 at halftime, but a strong effort in the third quarter by Fairview chipped the lead to just three points. Shots that weren’t going down in the first half finally did for Warriors, who shot 23.8 percent during the first 16 minutes.
Over the last 16, they hit 12-of-27 shots. Neither team did much in the game from behind the arc, though a pair of three-pointers in the third quarter by Fairview was part of a strong run that eventually gave them the lead in the fourth.
Park City took it back with under two minutes remaining, however, and didn’t give the lead up. Cody Asbeck and Alex Schriver each scored 11 points to lead the Warriors.
“A win at the state tournament on a first-round night is fantastic,” Southworth said. “Got to take that when you get it, right?”
ARLEE 58, BELT 37
Arlee turned the defensive intensity up in the second half as the Warriors turned a three-point halftime lead into a first-round state Class C state tournament win over Belt.
Will Mesteth hit three consecutive three-pointers in the third quarter for Arlee, which helped stretch the game out. He finished with a game high 15 points on 5-of-11 shooting.
“We’ve been looking forward to this for a long time, to be able to come back here and play them,” Warrior head coach Zanen Pitts said. “The halftime talk was real simple, and basic. It was get back out there and get some shots up so we can find our rhythm.
“We overplayed a lot and exposed ourselves and then we went to more of a contained effort. We were able to get some shots to fall and that was an advantage for us.”
Arlee allowed just 14 points in the second half as Belt went 5-of-20 over the final 16 minutes of the game. The Huskies made just 4-of-17 shots from behind the arc for the game.
Keagan Stroop led Belt with 12 points, but also had seven turnovers in 26 minutes. Trey Heiztman was also in double-digits for the Huskies, scoring 10 and grabbing six rebounds.
Arlee will get Scobey in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. Friday night, while Belt will play Melstone in a loser-out game at 12:30 p.m.
“My fourth assistant coach, Tyler Tanner, has been in Eastern Montana getting us stuff on them all season long” Pitts said. “I guess you’ll know my scouting report tomorrow night at about eight o’clock, you’ll see what happens.”
SCOBEY 45, MELSTONE 43
With one second left on the clock, there's not a whole lot of plays a team can draw up when they're trailing by a point.
Luckily for the Scobey boys' basketball team, it's something they practice every time they're in the gym. The players, head coach Jason Wolfe said, say it's monotonous.
On Thursday afternoon, trailing by a point to Melstone in the first round of the Class C state tournament, the last second was anything but. A brilliant pass, thrown by CJ Nelson, landed in the hands of Caden Handran, who threw up a prayer.
It went in.
Final score: Scobey 45, Melstone 43.
"I was just hoping to get it off, I guess," Handran said. "I looked up at the clock, saw there was a second left. I just put it up and hoped for the best."
The game nearly ended before Handran and the Spartans even had a chance to win it. Following a Scobey game tying three-point shot with 8.6 seconds left, Melstone's Brody Grebe drove to the rim and drew contact.
He made the first free throw and missed the second. The second looked like it had been intentionally missed and may have not hit the rim.
There were 1.3 seconds left, which rolled off the clock. The Broncs started celebrating like they won, but after a quick officials conference, a single second was put back on the clock.
"That was something extremely odd," Wolfe said. "I've never seen anything like it."
Handran made the shot and Scobey is headed to the second round against either Belt or Arlee at 6:30 p.m. on Friday night.
CJ Nelson, who is playing sick, led the Spartans with 21 points on 7-of-20 shooting. Riley Linder had 12.
Grebe ended with 17 points for the Broncs, who will play a loser-out game at 12:30 p.m. on Friday. Wolfe was happy with how Riley Linder guarded Grebe and the defense that led to the win in general.
"We knew we could defend them, that's kind of what we hang out hat on," Wolfe said. "We pride ourselves on playing 94 feet for four quarters."