BILLINGS -- Three Forks and Lodge Grass will meet for the Southern B boys basketball divisional title on Saturday night in Billings after winning semifinal games on Friday night. Three Forks took down Huntley Project, while Lodge Grass beat Manhattan.
Three Forks 45, Huntley Project 37
The Three Forks boys are back in the Southern B divisional title game for the third consecutive year, as the Wolves took down Huntley Project 45-37 on Friday inside First Interstate Arena at MetraPark in Billings. Three Forks is also guaranteed a trip to the State B tournament next weekend in Butte.
"It's amazing. We held them to 37 points. ... We watched some film, took about an hour and a half going through what we were going to do in our game plan. They executed it as well as any team I've ever coached," Three Forks head coach Terry Hauser said.
Three Forks suffocated the Huntley Project offense early, building a 20-11 midway through the second quarter. Project would steal a little momentum at the end of the half when Isaiah Bouchard got a transition bucket before the horn sounded, cutting the Wolves' lead to 22-14.
Both sides traded buckets in the third quarter before Three Forks opened the fourth by extending the lead to 40-28. The Red Devils trailed by that same deficit with just less than four minutes to play when they finally flipped a switch.
A pair of buckets by Tim Rose and a Rylan Devries 3-pointer trimmed the Project deficit to 41-37 with less than two minutes to play, but then the Project offense went cold again, allowing Three Forks to seal the game from the free throw line.
"They settled themselves. Just like (Thursday) when we were up 20, the kids do a good job of settling themselves," Hauser said. "I'm finally starting not to panic. We've blown some leads the last few years. I honestly didn't have to settle them."
Micaiah Hauser led Three Forks with 21 points and grabbed six rebounds. Isaiah Bouchard had 10 points and 23 rebounds for Huntley Project. Three Forks is in Saturday's title game and will face Lodge Grass. Huntley Project falls to loser-out action and will face Columbus at 9 a.m. Saturday at Rocky Mountain College.
"I'm going to enjoy this for another hour or so -- not even that, because I'm going to go out and start watching (Lodge Grass/Manhattan)," Hauser said. "That's what I told them, 'You can enjoy this for a little bit, but not for too long.'"
Lodge Grass 73, Manhattan 66
Lodge Grass will join Three Forks in Saturday night's championship game, as the Indians defeated Manhattan 73-66 in the final boys semifinal of the night.
Lodge Grass opened up the game on a 16-3 run, but Manhattan caught fire from beyond the arc to quickly catch up. Caden Holgate buried 5 of 7 attempts from downtown in the first half, as Manhattan battled all the way back to trail just 37-34 at the break.
"I just told them to not unravel and trust the process. They are going to make some runs, we've just got to withstand those the best we can," Lodge Grass head coach Josh Stewart said. "We started putting pressure on their 3-point shooting. They still got 12 of them. Some of them we just kind of left them out there at 25, 30 feet, and they were launching them and hitting them. What do you do about that?"
Lodge Grass would extend its lead to double digits in the third quarter, but Manhattan would go on a 9-2 run to trail by just four, 57-53, in the fourth quarter. Lodge Grass would again push its lead to double figures to put the Tigers away.
Manhattan knocked down 12 3-pointers and shot 48 percent from beyond the arc, but Lodge Grass was able to trump that by shooting a blistering 58.7 percent from the floor and 60 percent from downtown.
"It's live and die sometimes at the 3-point line. Thankfully we didn't take that option. We tried to get the ball in the paint and attack the basket. We kind of stuck to our plan for the most part," Stewart said.
Damon Gros Ventre led all scorers with 24 points. He was 6 of 7 from 3-point range. Manhattan got 19 points apiece out of Holgate and Finn Tesoro.
Lodge Grass and Three Forks are slated to tip at 6:30 p.m. Saturday. Manhattan will face Colstrip on Saturday at 9 a.m.
"They've got (Micaiah) Hauser, and we need to make sure we apply pressure and stay home on him. We need to do what we can to make sure he doesn't control the tempo," Stewart said. "We've just been saying the team that works the hardest is going to win. That's just what it comes down to."