It took three overtime periods, but Lodge Grass won the highly-anticipated battle of defending Class B boys co-champions with Fairfield on Saturday night inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark, 85-84.
The teams traded scores throughout the extra sessions, but Malachai Little Nest hit the first of two free throws with 7.3 seconds remaining to give the Indians a one-point lead. Little Nest missed the second but Lodge Grass corralled the rebound and ran out the clock to preserve the win.
"I gotta make these free throws, at least one, just to win the game," Little Nest told MTN Sports after the game. "I knocked down one. I know I missed the second, but we got the ball back, got the rebound and just threw it up. Oh, man. That was a good feeling."
The Indians nearly didn't see a third overtime period, though. Trailing 77-74 with less than 30 seconds to go, Damon Gros Ventre splashed in a 3-pointer to tie it up and force four more minutes of basketball.
Lodge Grass had a 10-point lead early in the second half, 44-34, but Fairfield found a way to cut into the deficit and eventually take the lead. Trailing by three with under two minutes to play, Gavin Mills rained in a triple to tie things up. Fairfield led late in the fourth quarter, and each of the first two overtime periods but was unable to close out Lodge Grass. A Little Nest floater with less than 30 seconds to play in regulation tied things up at 68-all.
Little Nest, who finished with 15 points, was the hero down the stretch that the Indians needed in a back-and-forth affair.
"Those guys are pretty good. They're competitors, just like us. Just to go out there and play them, to have like a rematch, it felt pretty good," Little Nest said.
Gros Ventre led all scorers with 27 points. Mills led Fairfield with 23.
Fairfield and Lodge Grass have nearly two weeks to prepare for the district tournaments, but with both sitting near or at the top of their respective divisions it doesn't seem far-fetched to see these two playing at First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in March at the State B tournament.