Trojans headed to Divisional
Play Roundup next Thursday
February 22, 2017
BELGRADE -- Imagine the score being 20-2.
Imagine no longer because that was the score -- Whitehall 20, Three Forks 2 -- after one quarter en route to a resounding 62-33 victory Monday night in the challenge game of the District 5B boys basketball tournament.
"We were definitely ready to play," Whitehall junior Wyatt Alexander said after scoring 16 points to lead the Trojans. "We had energy at the start."
Still, being up 18 after one quarter while limiting the Wolves to just two free throws, both by Payden Lynn, was surprising.
"I didn't think we had that much energy to get a lead that big," Alexander said. "We just needed to keep it on them."
All 12 players got into the game for several minutes and eight scored. Following Alexander were Braden Larsen with 15 points, Max Feight with 12, Colton Noyes 6, Andrew Simon and Cade Briggs 5 each, Braden Smith 2 and Ryan Murphy 1.
"We gave it all we had," Noyes said, "and we just played as a unit."
While the opening quarter pretty much zapped Three Forks, which had beaten the Trojans late in the regular season, Whitehall didn't let up and the Wolves were frustrated.
"For sure," Alexander said. "Once we got on them defensively we got a couple of steals and their frustration started to build."
Lynn said, "It was tough. Nobody had come at us that hard in this tournament. They really got after it. They just played better."
Larsen and Feight scored the game's first 9 points, 5 by Larsen, before the first point was scored by Lynn with 3:53 left in the opening quarter. Another 9-0 run followed.
The lead ballooned to 39-12 at halftime, 57-18 after three quarters and the starters were pulled by both teams with about five minutes to play.
"I didn't expect that run at the start," Whitehall coach Zach McLean said. "That was incredible. This team has done it before. They can really turn it on."
When McLean had Larsen and Simon on the bench, the reserves played well.
"You know, they didn't miss a beat," he said. "I'm so proud of these guys."
McLean spent most of the game standing and applauding all the outstanding plays of his team, which forced 16 turnovers in the first half.
He hopes he gets to do more of that when the Trojans play Roundup in the first round of the Divisional 5B Tournament next Thursday night in Billings.
"They're going to be a tough test, but there's no easy opponents," McLean said.
That, naturally is what he was thinking going into Monday's challenge, which never materialized.
Ironically, at church last Sunday, Feight was asked about the matchup with Three Forks with so much on the line after the top-seeded Trojans, 16-5, had gone 1-1 in the District, beating Jefferson by 20 and losing a gut-wrenching overtime game to Townsend.
"We'll win the game," Feight said without hesitation.
District 5B Championship
Whitehall 55, OT
Playing for a berth into the Divisional produced extra pressure for both teams, but it was Jefferson that performed best down the stretch of the fourth quarter and overtime.
The Trojans led 43-35 after three quarters and were up 47-40 after a Feight 3-pointer with just over two minutes left in regulation. It was 47-42 when back-to-back turnovers led to five points on a field goal by Easton Hadfield and a tying 3-pointer by Payden Anderson with 1:15 left.
Whitehall took the lead on two free throws by Alexander and, following a missed shot by Jefferson, Simon was belted to the floor as he attempted to make a long pass to a streaking Feight. Simon went to the line and missed the front end of the bonus with 28 seconds left. After the Panthers tied it, the Trojans had a shot at winning in regulation but Larsen's shot bounced off the rim.
The 4-minute OT period produced three lead changes and Larsen's 3-pointer with 20 seconds left tied it at 55. That allowed Townsend time to score the game-winner with 3 seconds left.
An attempt from just across midcourt by Larsen, who scored 19 points, was on line but short as the buzzer sounded to a disheartening loss, especially when remembering the Trojans had gone 2-0 against Townsend in the regular season.
"Turnovers, missed free throws and we gave them too many easy buckets," coach Zach McLean said. "Those little things come back to hurt you."
Those "little things" probably proved to be big things when McLean glanced at the scoresheet. Still, there was another chance at earning a trip to Billings for the Divisional.
District 5 B Semifinals
Getting past its first opponent was no problem for the Trojans, who jumped to a 9-0 lead and were never headed.
The Panthers, who upset Three Forks in the first round, trailed only 12-6 after one quarter, but their deficit increased to 29-16 at halftime and 40-23 through three quarters.
Noyes hit the first two field goals, Simon added a 3-pointer and Alexander had a field goal for the opening run by Whitehall, which led by as many as 15 twice in the second quarter.
Larsen, scored 11 of his team-high 16 points and pulled down 11 rebounds for the Trojans. Simon finished with 9 points and 13 rebounds, Alexander had 10 points and Feight 8 as Whitehall finished off a season sweep (3-0) of Jefferson.
Simon swatted away shots and made his presence felt in altering many Jefferson shots. The Whitehall defense held the Panthers to 23 percent shooting.