Trojans headed to Billings
February 26, 2020
The Whitehall High School boys basketball team won two games last Saturday to finish third at the 5B District Tournament in Belgrade. The Trojans defeated Townsend 53-49 early Saturday morning and rival Jefferson 54-46 Saturday afternoon and will advance to a play in-game March 4 at the Southern B Divisional Tournament in Billings. Whitehall will open the tournament against Columbus, the third seed from the 4B District in a game scheduled for 6 p.m.
The win Saturday against Jefferson was the second time the Trojans had defeated rival Jefferson at the tournament. They opened with a 36-23 win Thursday night.
Following the third-place victory, Head Coach Zach McLean praised his team for winning three games in three days to advance to Billings.
"I'm so proud of these guys. They played hard. They fought hard and it is kudos to them. They never gave up on me, and I never gave up on them. There is a lot of love in that locker room and that is special to see," he said. "To win three games all season and then to win three out of four here says a lot about them. They bought into everything me and Coach Larsen (Braden) told them."
It was a strong first quarter for Whitehall who built as big as a 14-4 lead on a Hayden Hoagland three. An Avery Stiles three would cut the lead to 14-7 before Brendan Wagner knocked down two free throws with four seconds remaining in the quarter to up the lead to 16-7.
The Trojans were equally impressive in the second scoring the first eight, five from Kenzie Hugulet as well as another three from Wagner. Whitehall would push the lead to 30-16 after threes from Dylan Smith and Hugulet.
The Trojans would take a 31-19 lead into the half with Wagner, Hugulet, and Hoagland each scoring eight points, and Smith adding seven.
Whitehall would stretch the lead to as big as 15 before the Panthers clawed back in the third and cut the deficit to 41-33 going into the fourth.
Jefferson stormed back in the fourth cutting the lead to 48-44 before a Dylan Smith follow up jam and a monster jam from Flint Smith put Whitehall up 52-44 with 1:20 left.
Wagner led the team with 16, Dylan Smith had 14, Hoagland finished with 12, Hugulet added eight and Flint Smith finished with four.
After failing in overtime in both of their regular-season matchups against rival Jefferson, the third time was a charm for the Whitehall High School boys basketball. The sixth-seeded Trojans defeated the Panthers 36-23 Thursday in the first round of the 5B District Tournament.
Following the victory, an ecstatic McLean praised the fight of his team and said the victory was all about them.
"They executed, they believed in themselves, they kept fighting when things were not going good. To hold a team to zero points in the fourth quarter. That's pretty good. They really bought into the defensive side," he said.
The opening quarter was a low-scoring affair with Whitehall taking a 7-5 lead late in the quarter on a three-pointer from sophomore standout Wagner.
The Trojans opened the second quarter with two baskets from Hoagland to take an 11-7 lead. Second-seeded Jefferson would answer with answer back with five straight points to take a 12-11 lead before Dylan Smith hit a basket and the ensuing free throw to give the Trojans a 14-12 lead with 2:30 left in the half. Wagner would hit a 15-foot jumper on the next possession to push the lead to 16-12. Neither team would score again in the half with the Trojans maintaining the four-point lead.
The Panthers would open the third with a 5-0 run before Smith scored the first Whitehall basket of the third quarter with 2:48 left. He was also fouled on the play and connected his free throw to help Whitehall retain the lead 19-17. Smith would connect on the next Trojans after another Jefferson foul. He would miss the free throw, but the basket did push the lead to 21-17. Stiles would back to back threes with under a minute left to give the Panthers a 23-21 lead. Wagner would bank in a shot at the buzzer to give Whitehall the lead back 24-23 going into the fourth and final quarter.
Wagner would score the first points of the fourth on another three to push the Trojans lead to 27-23 with 5:52 left in the game. Wagner would find Smith on the next Whitehall possession to push the lead to 29-23.
Wagner kept up his hot shooting and his corner three pushed the lead to 32-23 with four minutes remaining. Kenzie Hugulet would connect on two consecutive free throws to give Whitehall at 34-23 lead with under two minutes remaining. Smith would once again connect inside and was once again fouled. The basket put the Trojans up 36-23 with under a minute left.
Wagner and Smith each had 14 for Whitehall.
McLean lauded the play of both.
"He (Brendan) hit some dagger shots for sure. He's a heck of a shooter. I challenged Dylan and he did what I asked," McLean said.
Hoagland added four and Hugulet had two.
Whitehall fell to the consolation bracket after losing 51-31 in a semifinal matchup Friday against Manhattan.
The Trojans struggled offensively in the first half and who fell behind 11-6 at the end of the first quarter and 20-12 at the break.
Manhattan would once again use strong defense in the third to push their lead to 32-17 going into the final quarter.
(Read a preview for the Divisional game in next week's Ledger).