BBB: Jefferson vs. Whitehall

Andrew Simon and the Whitehall boys' basketball team will look to advance to this weekend's divisional tournament when they play Three Forks in a challenge game tonight at the Belgrade Events Center.

Al Balderas, The Montana Standard

Losing the championship game in overtime of any tournament can be pretty demoralizing for a basketball team.

But the Whitehall boys’ basketball team doesn’t have time for that.

The Trojans would prefer to have been on the winning end of Saturday night’s District 5B championship game but things didn’t turn out that way.

Whitehall will play against Three Forks in a winner-take-all scenario at 7 p.m., at the Belgrade Events Center.

The winner will advance to next week’s divisional tournament, while the losing team will break out its best “Wait ‘til next year" cheer.

“Games like this show the character of your team,” Whitehall coach Zach McLean said on Sunday. “It’s going to be a who-wants-it-a little-bit-more type of game. The kids are bummed about our game against Townsend but they know they have another opportunity ahead.”

The Trojans had an opportunity to put Saturday night’s game away but were unable to recover after letting a fourth-quarter lead slip away.

“We didn’t get stops when we needed to,” McLean said of Saturday’s loss. “We had the lead but then we had two crucial turnovers late in that fourth quarter.

“Townsend just made the plays that we didn’t.”

McLean pointed to a missed layup on a fast break as another key to Townsend’s comeback. The Bulldogs responded to that missed layup with a three-point play that cut their deficit to five points.

“This time of year, you’ve got to have a little luck,” McLean said. “Townsend earned it. Around this time of year you need things to go your way.”

They still can go the Trojans’ way.

Because Whitehall and Three Forks never got to play against each other in the district tournament – in which the top two teams advance – the third-place Wolves got the chance to challenge the Trojans for second-place.

Although the Trojans and Wolves didn’t get to play against each other this weekend, they are rather familiar with each other. Whitehall beat Three Forks, 63-30, in December.

The Wolves returned the favor at the end of January with a 70-56 win over the Trojans.

“I think it was early in the year for Three Forks,” McLean said of Whitehall’s win over Three Forks. “They were still feeling out their young guys.

“We shot the heck out of the ball early in that game. I think we caught them a little bit off-guard.”

Whitehall saw a much-improved Three Forks team the second time around.

“The second part of the year they’ve played really, really well,” McLean said of the Terry Hauser-coached Wolves. “They changed things up a little bit where they like to play a really hard-pressure man-to-man defense. We’re going to be seeing that second Three Forks.”

McLean said that the best approach for his players is to treat Monday night’s showdown as just another game. Whitehall will have had nearly 48 hours to shake off its loss to Townsend and should be ready to go in what is now biggest game of the year for both teams.

“I just want them to go in there and forget about what happened on Saturday night,” McLean said. “Just come in there, play hard, pay loose and have fun. We’re kind of at our best when the kids are loose. I don’t want my guys to overthink the game or the situation.”

District 12C too

The District 12C Tournament has some unfinished business as well.

The Ennis boys' team, which finished second to Twin Bridges on Saturday night has been challenged by Drummond.

The teams will play each other at 6 p.m., with the winner returning to Butte for this week's divisional tournament.

The Mustangs beat the Trojans twice this season, averaging 57.5 points per game, while holding Drummond to 31 points per game.

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