HAMILTON – No team in Montana is more worth the price of admission than the Arlee boys. The undefeated, defending Class C state champion Warriors have put on a show all season, while piling up wins and breathtaking highlights.
Arlee plays with a fast-paced energy that their crowd shares, which created a great atmosphere at their Western C divisional triumph in Hamilton.
Only two teams have stayed within single digits of the Warriors all year; Rocky Boy, who’s heading to the class B state tournament, and Manhattan Christian, who lost to Arlee in last year’s state championship and in last week’s divisional semifinals.
But even though it looks like so much fun, the Warriors admit they feel a ton of pressure heading into state.
“You’ve got to have a champion mindset,” explained guard Greg Whitesell. “You’ve got to get better every day, because you have a target on your back. You’ve just got to have more heart. You have everything to lose. The team is going to come at you cause they have nothing to lose. We’ve got everything to lose at this point. So we’ve got to come ready.”
“We’re doing it for our community. We’re doing it for everybody back home. And we’re doing it for our team,” said guard Phillip Malatare about the importance of this tournament run. “This is way bigger than basketball. We’re trying to do something for back home. And that’s what we’ve been going into this postseason for.”
Arlee will open against Belt in the first round of the Class C state tournament on Thursday, with tip set for 2:00 in the Butte Civic Center.
One win would set up a fantastic semifinal against another class C power, either Melstone or undefeated Scobey.
Two wins would put the Warriors back in the state championship for a third straight year. They could very well meet Manhattan Christian once again in the final. But Whitesell admitted he’d be pulling for unbeaten Heart Butte to come through the other side of the bracket, to set up an “all-native” championship.