High School SportsHigh School Boys Basketball


State B boys: Thin margins for Anaconda and Fairview but Missoula Loyola and Poplar win big

Anaconda vs. Red Lodge boys basketball
Reynolds Johnston
Posted at 4:14 PM, Mar 07, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-08 10:42:13-05

BILLINGS — Anaconda and Fairview won by thin margins Thursday in the first round of the Class B boys state basketball tournament at First Interstate Arena. Missoula Loyola and Poplar followed with big wins of their own.

Anaconda needed overtime to knock off Red Lodge 52-50 before Fairview held Arlee scoreless over the final 1:16 to win 52-47.

Later, unbeaten and defending state champ Missoula Loyola ran away from Manhattan 64-39 to earn a semifinal berth. Poplar did the same to Lodge Grass, pulling away with a strong second quarter on its way to a 71-55 victory.

In Friday’s semifinals, Anaconda takes on Fairview at 6:30 p.m. Fairview is in its first season at Class B since moving up from Class C, while Anaconda is in its first state tournament since 2018. At 8 p.m., Loyola faces Poplar in the second semi.

Red Lodge plays Arlee at noon in a loser-out game. In a 1:30 p.m. loser-out game, Manhattan tangles with Lodge Grass.

Anaconda 52, Red Lodge 50, OT

It wasn’t until Tytan Cook tracked down a loose ball to set off the final buzzer that this game was put to rest.

Close throughout, Anaconda came back from a 49-45 deficit after Red Lodge scored the first four points in overtime to claim the victory.

The score was tied 38-38, 40-40, 43-43 and 45-45 in the fourth quarter and end of regulation before a basket by Nic Morean and two free throws from Thomas Buchanan seemed to put the Rams in charge.

Anaconda’s River Hurley answered with a three-point play, though, and following another Buchanan free throw, Hurley knotted the score again at 50-50 with 1:32 left in the extra period.

Single free throws from Cael Mikalatos and Hurley finally put the Copperheads up again, eventually leaving the ball in Red Lodge’s hands with :07 to play.

Hurley forced a held ball under the Red Lodge basket with :00.7 with the arrow still in favor of the Rams. But after a couple Red Lodge timeouts to draw up a play, the inbound pass sailed through the lane untouched before Cook gathered the ball to end the game.

Hurley finished with 25 points and 10 rebounds to lead Anaconda. Mikalatos added 12 points and four assists.

Buchanan led Red Lodge with 11 points and 16 rebounds. Walker Boos also had 11 points.

Fairview 52, Arlee 47

Landen Thompson’s basket with 5:33 to play gave Fairview a 42-41 lead, and it turned out to be the final lead change of a game that saw the advantage change hands nine times.

The teams were never separated by more than four points — until the final 3.5 seconds — after a first quarter in which both sides went on long scoring runs.

Jace Arca’s driving layup kept Arlee within 48-47, but it turned out to be the team’s final points. Following Arca’s basket the teams exchanged scoreless possessions before Fairview’s Jeff Tjelde went 4 for 4 from the foul line down the stretch to seal the win.

Tjelde had game highs in points (22) and rebounds (15), and teammate Thompson also had a double-double, finishing with 12 points and 12 rebounds. Tyler Loan contributed 10 points for Fairview, which made just 1 of 15 3-point attempts.

Ben Old Person-Harlow had 19 points to power Arlee.

Both teams overcame a slow start offensively. Arlee scored the game’s first basket, but Fairview eventually answered with a 10-0 run. Arlee, though, closed the quarter on its own run: A basket by Kendal O’Neill and 3-pointers from Ethan Fidler and Dallas Swab knotted the score at 10-10 by the end of the quarter.

Missoula Loyola 64, Manhattan 39

The Rams dominated the second half, outscoring the Tigers 34-11.

Ethan Stack scored 20 points — four on a couple dunks — and Noah Haffey and Reynolds Johnston both added 12 points to help the Rams win going away. Johnston finished with 11 rebounds, giving him a double-double for the game.

Reynolds Johnston
Missoula Loyola's Reynolds Johnston (44) battles for position with Manhattan's Callin Fenno.

Manhattan was led by the16 points of Michael Stewart, who hit four 3-pointers, and Callin Fenno, who finished with 12 points.

Loyola shot 69.2% on 2-point shots and 45.5% on 3-pointers in the second half. Manhattan, meanwhile, was a combined 5 for 20 after halftime.

The first half was fast and furious, with neither team willing to take a step back.

There were six lead changes, most of those in the early stages of the first quarter. Loyola closed the first eight minutes on a 9-0 run to lead 20-16 after trailing by five. The Rams got the lead to nine, 30-21, before the Tigers managed to close the gap to five at the break.

Manhattan scored the first two points of the second half, and it looked like the game would continue to be a close one. But Loyola went on a 17-0 run to take the wind out of the Tigers’ sails.

Poplar 71, Lodge Grass 55

When the teams met in December, Lodge Grass walked away with a four-point victory. Poplar flipped the script this time around, thanks in large part to second-quarter flurry of shot-making.

Poplar broke away from a 7-7 tie with a run of solid 3-point shooting. By the time Delray Lilley and Kaniel Ricker had cooled off, Poplar had built an 18-point lead. By halftime, the lead was 39-20 after Walker Burshia’s one-handed putback at the buzzer.

Poplar made seven 3-pointers in the first half, and though a cold streak toward the end of the second quarter brought the percentage down to 38.9 from the arc, it was a distinct advantage compared to Lodge Grass’ 1-for-8 performance from deep.

Lodge Grass never did cut into the deficit, one that grew to as many as 23 points.

Lilly finished with 24 points to lead Poplar, which made 8 of 25 3-pointers overall. Burshia added 16 points and 10 rebounds and Ricker contributed 14 points.

Adriano Hugs had 14 points to lead Lodge Grass, while Lance Little Nest put in 12 points.

The teams combined to shoot 28 free throws in the third quarter alone. For the game, Poplar made 21 of 29 foul shots and Lodge Grss was 16 of 28 from the line.