HAMILTON -- The Western B divisional boys basketball tournament got under way on Thursday at Hamilton High School and will go through Saturday. Two teams advance from the divisional tournament to the State B tournament in Butte on March 12-14. Here are the results and recaps from Thursday's games.
Missoula Loyola 60, St. Ignatius 51
The Loyola Rams held pace with an up-and-down St. Ignatius team and went on to win 60-51 to end the first night of the boys games at the Western B divisional.
Nick Mitzel scored 12 points while Cormac Benn and Basil Coutinho each added 11.
"I thought our kids did a great job of keeping the pace up and making sure we got plenty of opportunities, good and bad, to do something out there and that was kind of our goal (Thursday) was to just keep the game moving as much as we could," Loyola coach Eddie Stack said. "Just executed that part of the game plan pretty well, got up and down, and some timely defense here and there with a couple extra stops kind of put us over the top."
Loyola jumped to a quick double-digit lead in the first half, but St. Ignatius trimmed it to a 48-43 game by the third quarter. That was a close as the Bulldogs got, though, as Loyola started to slow things down and executed set plays at will to continue to pad its lead.
"I think we're peaking at the right time," Mitzel said. "We kind of had a little losing streak and the last two games we've kind of put everything together and had a lot more energy with stuff, so it's been contagious for our team."
Jedi Christy led St. Ignatius (10-12) with 18 points. Loyola (12-9) will take on Deer Lodge in the semifinals on Friday at 5 p.m. St. Ignatius will play Thompson Falls at 10:30 a.m. in a loser-out game.
Deer Lodge 54, Thompson Falls 42
Deer Lodge held off a late rally by Thompson Falls as the Wardens defeated the Bluehawks 54-42 to move on to the semifinals.
Logan Nicholson led Deer Lodge (16-5) with 20 points while Ethan Bossert added 10.
The Wardens held a 17-point lead at one point in the third quarter, but the Bluehawks were able to trim it to single digits at one point.
"Thompson Falls missed a couple 3s in the first half that looked pretty good and it helped us stretch it out," Deer Lodge coach Dakota Norris said. "I think defensively we put the clamps down and didn't give them too many second-chance opportunities."
Deer Lodge was knocking down shots with consistency in the first half before going cold in the third quarter but re-found its shot down the stretch for the win. The Warden defense was able to stifle the Bluehawks in the fourth quarter, as well, after letting Thompson Falls find some life again.
"In the second half, I think that's what their game plan was, was to crash the glass," Norris said. "They had nothing to lose at that point down. Jake (Mickelson) did a great job of getting his boys ready and they got back into it. They put a little more pressure, which gave us a little bit of an issue, but I think our boys are very resilient and got the ball inside and they scored well in the second half."
Sidney Akinde led Thompson Falls (8-13) with 18 points.
Bigfork 48, Anaconda 43
In the second game of the day, the Bigfork Vikings used late free throws to get past Anaconda 48-43 in the opening round. Bigfork is the two-time reigning Class B state champion.
Freshman Isak Epperly scored 18 points including a layup and four straight free throws down the late stretch of the game to propel the Vikings to the win over the Copperheads. Walker Fished added nine for Bigfork (11-10) in the win.
"You really just have to have confidence when you're at the free throw line," Epperly said. "There's huge nerves. From our past history, we have a lot of guys who are back-to-back state champions and I just want to continue our legacy and keep on going forward."
Epperly's layup came with just more than a minute to play to make it 42-39. He added his first two free throws before Anaconda's Landon Hurley made it a 44-41 game with 46.9 seconds left. That was as close as the Copperheads got, though.
"We did a great job executing our game plan," Bigfork coach John Hollow said. "Our kids did a great job defensively. Couldn't be more proud of the guys. We found a way to win."
Michael Galle led Anaconda (11-10) with 13 points. The Copperheads were the No. 2 seed out of District 6B while Bigfork was the No. 3 from the 7B.
Bigfork will take on Arlee at 3:30 p.m. on Friday in the semifinals while Anaconda will play Eureka at 9 a.m. in a loser-out.
Arlee 58, Eureka 51
The Arlee Warriors, the No. 4 seed from the District 6B tournament, began the Western B with a bang with a 58-51 upset over Eureka. The Lions were the top seed and winners from the District 7B tournament a week ago.
Tapit Haynes led the Warriors with 22 points while Cody Tanner added 19. Arlee improved to 8-14 on the season with the win.
It's a strong start to the tournament considering Arlee jumped up to Class B this year after three straight trips to the State C championship game, two of which resulted in titles.
"All year long, even though all of the games we've lost, there's only been one over double-digits," Arlee head coach Zachary Conko Camel said. "We were just one step away from getting it done. All we're doing is working on the process. Our seniors are going to fight and go as hard as they could to get stuff done and once we learned our roles and the process, things went really well.
"We knew we were a dangerous team and all the teams that we played know we're a dangerous team. So you just have to take that last step and take care of business."
Cory Chaney led Eureka (12-9) with 15 points.