BUTTE -- Zach Pitcher was not afraid of the moment.
With Three Forks trailing Deer Lodge 31-29 late in the fourth quarter, Pitcher buried a 3-pointer to put the Wolves up 32-31. Just moments later Pitcher buried one from beyond the NBA line to put Three Forks up 35-31 with just over a minute to play.
Three Forks would hold on for a 38-35 win to advance to Friday's semifinals against Fairfield.
"With (Pitcher) he usually doesn't fire them. I'm always telling him to shoot the ball," Three Forks head coach Terry Hauser said. "He's hit big shot after big shot for us. In fact, I remember his sophomore year we were in the district tournament, we had the flu bug going around, playing bad and he came in and hit four 3s in the second half. And he was only playing 10 minutes a game back then. He hit a game winner against Manhattan Christian. He's just a gamer. When the game's on the line, you can count on him. That last 3 he shot, I was kind of thinking, 'Oh no. That wasn't a great shot.' Then it went in. It's one of those, 'Alright, we'll take it."
Three Forks suffocated Deer Lodge in the first half to build an 18-7 lead as the teams went to the locker room, but the Wardens came out with a vengeance in the second half.
Deer Lodge forced several turnovers in the third quarter to lead to easy baskets in transition, eventually trimming the Three Forks lead down to 25-22 entering the final period.
The Wardens would started the fourth quarter on a 7-0 run to take a 29-25 lead with just under four minutes to play, but Pitcher's heroics were enough to help Three Forks stave off defeat.
"The kids just battled. We didn't play well. Deer Lodge played good. They brought us out of our game. That 1-3-1 gave us fits and we found a way to win," Hauser said. "Micaiah (Hauser) is obviously not healthy. He couldn't get to the hoop and create like he usually does. He turned it over a lot at the beginning. That's what they've done to us the last two times we've played. They've got a lot of length to it. We don't get the shots we want. They just took us out of our game a little bit, so props to Deer Lodge for that."
Deer Lodge wasn't without chances after Pitcher's 3-point bombs. The Wardens had 15.6 seconds left after a pair of Micaiah Hauser free throws put the Wolves up 38-35, but Ethan Bossert and Brodeyk Freeman missed game-tying attempts as the clock struck zeroes.
"Just keep grinding. Figure out a way to be on top at the end. Period. And that's what they did. I thanked them for that. It was a tough game. ... They still grinded it out and I'm proud of them for that. We're going to have to play a lot better (Friday) to win," Hauser said.
Pitcher had a game-high 14 points for Three Forks. Hauser added 10 points and seven rebounds and Dustin Dalke had 10 points and 11 rebounds. Ozzie King had 11 points to lead Deer Lodge.
Three Forks and Fairfield are set up for a meeting in the semifinals. The two sides have built a tremendous relationship over the past few years with Terry Hauser and Jordan Ratliff manning the sidelines. It will also feature two of Class B's best players in Keeley Bake and Micaiah Hauser.
"I'm going to go to the drawing board right now. That's what I'm going to do for the next 24 hours. I've got some notes on them, got some film on them, so I'll go to the drawing board and figure some things out," Hauser said. "As far as Keeley and Micaiah, they're two of the best guards in the state. I wish Micaiah was 100 percent healthy, but I bet he'll come ready to go.
"Me and Jordan Ratliff have been talking about it since we played in the beginning of the year how fun it would be in the state tournament. ... Two teams that like to get up and down. I bet the scoreboard will be a little bit different (Friday) night. Hopefully we can score more than 38 because we aren't going to hold them under 38," Hauser continued. "We always talk. We go down there for a summer tournament. They put us up and we always hang out there, so I've definitely developed a great relationship with (Ratliff). He's a great guy, great coach. Deserves all the accolades they're getting this year. I'm glad they made it here. They've had a couple tough years. ... It's going to be a fun night. I'm excited."
Fairfield 64, Colstrip 42
Fairfield didn't waste any time in putting away its first-round opponent Colstrip at the State B tournament.
Fairfield built a 20-point lead early in the second quarter and led 40-18 at halftime on its way to a 64-42 win over the Colts inside the Butte Civic Center on Thursday to advance to Friday's semifinals.
Fairfield applied constant ball pressure and flew out in the passing lanes on Colstrip in the first half, resulting in nine first-half steals and several transition baskets. Fairfield didn't hit a 3-point attempt in the first half yet still had a 22-point advantage. Colstrip had 15 first-half turnovers.
"We just wanted to get out and pressure them. We knew they had good players, we just wanted to disrupt what I saw down in Billings last weekend," Fairfield head coach Jordan Ratliff said. "Just kind of put some pressure on them, make them feel uncomfortable, and we had some guys in the right spots able to get some steals, able to get some fast-break points which led to a 20-point halftime lead. It was kind of nice getting after them that way.
"I kind of preach it all season long. Even in the conference when we're up 15, up 20, we've got to keep that constant pressure. The kids, they're competitors. When you're a competitor it's just in you all the time. It's not something I have to coach often. It's something that's built in these guys. It's great to see."
Keeley Bake, a future Montana Tech Oredigger, showed out in the opening half by racking up 16 points and six rebounds in the opening 16 minutes. Bake finished with a 21-point, 11-rebound double-double to lead Fairfield.
"(Bake) is just an athlete and a competitor. He goes out every night, whether it's rebounding, assists, steals, and you can see he hustles all the time," Ratliff said. "It doesn't matter if he was injured, he'd be going out there playing 100 percent and just getting after it. It was great to see that. We kind of go as Keeley goes, too, so it's nice when he's able to get other guys open, distribute the ball. It helps us out."
The Eagles shot 45.6 percent for the game, but they only made 3 of 18 3-point attempts. Being able to put the ball in the hole while struggling from the field bodes well for Fairfield's chances throughout the rest of the tournament.
"Just didn't shoot the ball well, but we attacked the basket. That's what we like to do. We like to be diverse. Attack the basket, shoot free throws, not be easy to guard so we can hit some 3s every once in a while," Ratliff said.
Fairfield will meet either Twin Bridges or Deer Lodge in the semifinals on Friday. Fairfield lost to Three Forks 65-57 back on Dec. 14.
Rocky Boy 62, Arlee 46
Rocky Boy and Arlee gave fans inside the Butte Civic Center everything they could have asked for in Thursday's opening round.
Rocky Boy wound up closing the game on a 32-7 run to upend Western B divisional champion Arlee, 62-46, and set up a date with Lodge Grass in Friday's semifinals.
"We got into their game. That's what they wanted -- up and down, up and down. We're able to play that way, but I like a little more structure myself," Rocky Boy head coach Adam Demontiney said. "With that type of game, it could have been anybody's game. That's what I told my guys at halftime. It was getting ugly, it was getting sloppy, up and down. ... "Let's pick up the pressure and get them in turnovers, some silly fouls", and I think we did a pretty good job."
The two teams played to a stalemate after the opening 16 minutes, entering the locker room tied at 30-all. The second half was all a game of runs. Arlee scored the first nine points of the third quarter to take a 39-30 lead, but Rocky Boy scored the next 16 to grab a 46-39 lead late in the third quarter.
Arlee would score the final seven points of the third quarter, including 2 of 3 free throws from Tapit Haynes with 0.3 seconds left on the clock. Arlee, though, lost Cody Tanner with 1:27 to play in the third quarter with his fifth foul.
"It sucks for them, but it's also a plus for us," Demontiney said. "That was huge. I told my guys that we've got guys that can get to the basket pretty easily. They're some pretty good athletes. ... I'm glad we knocked some free throws down at the end and end up pulling this win out."
Rocky Boy cranked its pressure up another notch in the fourth quarter. The Stars had multiple steals leading to transition baskets and swarmed the glass to keep Arlee to one shot on its own end. Rocky Boy outscored Arlee 16-0 in the fourth quarter.
"I don't press a whole lot, not a very deep team to be pressing the whole game, but I figured it's the state tournament. We've got to come out and change a few things. I don't play a whole lot of man, I'm usually a 2-3 zone kind of guys. Lot of teams expect us to play a 2-3 zone, so we come out and play in a man," Demontiney said.
Blake Cantrell had a huge double-double of 20 points and 16 rebounds to lead Rocky Boy. he also had four steals. Joe Demontiney had 19 and Sean Gibson had 17. Haynes led Arlee with 14 points.
Rocky Boy will face Lodge Grass on Friday evening in the semifinals.
"I told my guys in the locker room just now that we've got to handle their pressure. We've got to do a better job than we did (Thursday)," Demontiney said. "We should be ready for it. The guys come out, the X's and O's are there, it's up to them to execute. We'll figure out a game plan (Thursday) and talk about it in the morning and handle some business."
Lodge Grass 71, Shelby 40
When Lodge Grass gets cooking, look out.
The Indians outscored Shelby 18-4 in the opening minutes of the third quarter to build an insurmountable 20-point lead, 45-25. Damon Gros Ventre punctuated the Lodge Grass run with his second emphatic one-handed dunk of the game.
Lodge Grass outscored Shelby 44-19 in the second half on its way to a 71-40 win in the opening round of the State B boys basketball tournament in Butte on Thursday.
"We just talked about we have 16 minutes to get this game knocked out. We got three of them and don't want to overlook anybody," Lodge Grass head coach Josh Stewart said. "That's been our thing all year. We don't care about their record, who they got, who they don't got, who we got, how we did the last game. We don't care if we won by 50 the last game. We just said, 'Guys, if you want to get there, you can't get away from what we worked on all year.' Keep believing in each other, keep believing in the process. The first half we played sloppy, we were jogging. We got beat, you saw that. ... We believe defense wins games and rebounds win championships."
Shelby was able to cut into the Lodge Grass lead by the end of the third quarter, but the Indians made sure to put the game out of reach again in the early moments of the third quarter.
Lodge Grass ratcheted up the defensive intensity in the second half, frequently forcing turnovers and tough, contested shots out of the Shelby offense. The Coyotes were only able to score 19 points in the second half and shot just 31 percent over the final two quarters.
"We talk about competitive excellence. Urban Meyer talks about that. The harder you work in practice, the easier it is in the game. Our practices are borderline crazy, we try to get after it, but we try to build that mental toughness and make sure everyone down to our 12th guy is ready to come in and do what they're supposed to. We work on boxing out, boxing out, and defensive drills."
Lodge Grass's Ty Moccasin celebrated his birthday with six points, seven rebounds and five assists for the Indians. Gros Ventre led the charge with 22 points and Malachai Little Nest had 19. Rhett Reynolds had 17 points and 10 rebounds to lead Shelby. Lodge Grass shot 52.7 percent for the game.
Lodge Grass will play the winner of Arlee and Rocky Boy in Friday's semifinals.
"Hats off to Shelby. Had a great game, great fight, did the best they could early on and held us to where we were playing their game," Stewart said. "We're thankful we got to get through that game."