The Whitehall Ledger - Serving Southern Jefferson County in the Great State of Montana

By Jack H. Smith
Ledger Publisher 

Trojans advance to state

Face Anaconda Thursday

 

Joy Smith

Whitehall junior Braden Smith locks in on defense Saturday evening against Roundup. The Trojans advanced to the state tournament with the 52-34 victory.

With their backs to the wall, there was no quit in the Whitehall High School boys basketball team.

After dropping their opening game of the Southern B Divisional Tournament last Thursday night to Roundup, the Trojans (19-6) bounced back with three consecutive victories to secure a spot in this week's MHSA Class B State Championship in Billings.

The number three seed from the South, the Trojans will open Thursday against a familiar foe in the top seed from the west Anaconda. The game is scheduled to take place at 10:30 a.m. at the MetraPark Arena.

The two teams met earlier this season, with Whitehall picking up a 65-47 victory January 19 in Varsity Gym.

Whitehall High School head coach Zach McLean knows it will be a much different Copperhead team than they played in the first matchup. Anaconda (15-9) is a perfect 4-0 in the postseason, finishing in first place at the 4B District and Western Divisional Tournaments.

"They are playing really well right now. They were missing a couple of guys last time we played them," McLean said. "We are a different team too. Both teams have improved and it should be a great game."

Going into the game, McLean said he knows his team will have its hands full with Copperhead standout guard Braxton Hill. The junior is coming off a 30-point game in the Divisional Championship, and scored 19 in the first matchup against the Trojans.

"He runs the show, does a great job using his body and finishing around the rim. We have to make his catches tough and be locked in defensively. They do a great job attacking the offensive glass as well, so it will be key for us to get going early and it will be key for us to get a body and rebound," McLean said.

Whitehall High School senior Andrew Simon had 19, and Braden Larsen and Wyatt Alexander each added 14 in the first matchup, and McLean was pleased with the way his team spread the floor and shared the basketball.

McLean added they also cannot let 6'5" junior Trent Mikalatos get going early. Mikalatos had 18 points in the first matchup.

When the Trojans take to the floor, it will be there fourth game in the 12,000 seat MetraPark Arena in the last week. McLean said he understands that it is the state tournament and there will be nerves, but the team knows what they have to do and are excited about it.

"We hope to see a GREAT Trojan crowd," he said.

DIVISIONAL

TOURNAMENT

Whitehall dropped a tough 55-46 contest to Roundup in the opening round of the Divisional Tournament. After leading by six going into the fourth quarter, the Trojans gave up 25 points in the fourth quarter of the loss that would send them to the losers out bracket.

McLean said much like in the finals of the District 5B Tournament when Whitehall squandered an eight point lead in final three minutes against Townsend, the fourth quarter was once again a sore spot for his squad.

He said Roundup didn't do anything his team had not seen, they just made plays and Whitehall didn't

Moments after the loss Thursday to the Panthers, McLean told his team to put the loss in the rearview mirror.

"At this tournament you are fortunate, you can fight back. It's our goal to get third. They've got to forget about it and move on to the next game," McLean said.

Whitehall rebounded Friday afternoon with a 62-50 win over Shepherd High School.

Much like it had the night before against Roundup, the Trojans grabbed an early lead Friday afternoon and took a 12-6 lead into the second quarter. After scoring just two points Thursday night, Alexander came out of the gates strong with five of his team high 17 points in the opening quarter. The Mustangs would score on their opening possession of the second, but a Simon three pointer would push the lead to seven for Whitehall. He would hit another three a minute later to put his team up 22-10. Behind a balanced scoring attack, Whitehall would take a 32-18 lead into the half.

Shepherd would make things interesting at the start of the third quarter, and would pull to within seven before Whitehall would once again start rolling to take a 49-36 lead at the end of three.

Simon and Larsen also had double figures with 14 and 10, respectively. Max Feight finished with nine, Braden Smith had six, Cade Briggs pitched in four and Ryan Murphy added two points.

Jack H. Smith

Cade Briggs brings the ball the court against Roundup.

McLean said that having Alexander with the big game was huge. He said that often times teams will try to stop Larsen going to the hole and Feight from the outside, so having Alexander step up was a big x-factor for his team.

Whitehall would go into Saturday play having to pick up two victories to advance to state. The Trojans would change venues to Rocky Mountain College, and after trailing by two at the end of three quarters would outscore Joliet 18-11 in the fourth quarter of the 51-46 victory.

Feight lead the team with a game high 17. Larsen had 12, Alexander had 11 and Simon had nine points.

The Trojans were able to exact revenge against Roundup four hours later in the Consolation Finals. Whitehall came out of the gates strong and never trailed in the 52-34 win. Feight led the team with 16. points.

 

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