BELGRADE – It was about as good of a first quarter that a team could have.
It was also about as bad of a first quarter that another team could have.
The Whitehall boys’ basketball team wasted little time in making amends for letting its late lead in last Saturday’s District 5B championship game slip away. The Trojans also seemed determined to not find itself in a similar situation.
The Trojans jumped out to an 18-point lead after one quarter, extended that margin to 27 at halftime, and didn’t rest until they had stopped Three Forks, 62-33, in Monday night’s challenge game at the Belgrade Events Center.
Whitehall secured second place in the district tournament and will play in the divisional tournament in Billings next week.
“I think we were just ready right off the start,” Wyatt Alexander said after scoring a game-high 16 points. “We got on them early and then I think they were frustrated super-early. Once we got an 18-point lead on them in the first half, I think they just fell apart.”
While Monday night’s outcome didn’t come as a big surprise – the teams split their two games during the regular season – the one-sided score wasn’t expected.
“I think that shows a lot about our team,” Whitehall coach Zach McLean said. “A tough overtime loss by two, and then they come out and play like that…that’s the fight in them. I’m lucky to coach this group, for sure.”
Braden Larsen and Max Feight combined to score the first seven points of the game, forcing Three Forks coach Terry Hauser to call a timeout less than three minutes into contest.
Hauser called his second timeout of the quarter with 2:25 remaining and the Wolves trailing by a 15-1 margin.
It got even worse for the Wolves. The Trojans scored five of the quarter’s final six points to carry a 20-2 lead into the second quarter.
The onslaught continued in the second frame. Whitehall upped its lead to 26-3 before Three Forks got its first field goal of the game. That was delivered by Payden Lynn with 4:43 left to play before halftime.
“I know it was frustrating for me so I’m sure it was frustrating for the players too,” Hauser said. “I think we needed to start off good, and when we didn’t, I think it took us right out of it. Things start going south and it’s a domino effect. That’s how it went.”
The dominoes continued to fall as the game continued.
Whitehall’s defense was up to the challenge and completely knocked Three Forks off of its game. The Trojans pressured. They smothered. They took advantage of the mistakes they forced and too a 39-12 lead into halftime. The lead had grown to 57-18 by the end of three quarters.
“I think we’ve had this built up,” Whitehall point guard Braden Larsen said after netting 15 points. “We lost a tough game on Saturday but we really felt confident coming into this game. We thought we’d bounce back and we really did.
“The defensive end was what did it. We gave up a lot of easy shots last time but in this game we were really active on the defensive end. We got a lot of deflections and we got a lot of turnovers that led to easy offense. We just jumped on them early and stayed on them from the start.
“I thought if we came out and executed, we could jump on them like this. You don’t expect to win by 30 points.”
Feight also reached double-figures in scoring for the Trojans, finishing with 12 points.
The Wolves, who outscored the Trojans by 10 points in the fourth quarter, were led by Lynn’s seven-point performance.