MISSOULA – Cody Tanner might not have been the first option for Arlee with time running out. But when the play broke down, the junior stepped up and swished a buzzer-beating 3-pointer at the top of the key to give the Warriors a thrilling 68-66 boys basketball win at Missoula Loyola.
Earlier, the Loyola Breakers finished strong to grab a 70-62 win over Arlee in an equally entertaining girls showdown.
Class B Loyola and Class C Arlee couldn’t gain any ground in the standings with the showdown, but the two boys’ conference leaders played like a championship was on the line in the Sister Rita Mudd Activity Center.
The Rams led for most of the game against the two-time defending Class C state champion. Loyola led by five at halftime, five at the end of the third quarter, and pushed the lead to 10 at one point.
But after some offensive struggles in the second half, the Warriors put it all together down the stretch. Lane Johnson cut for a layup to tie the game 63-63 with 1:20 to go. Both teams traded free throws in the final minute, and Loyola’s Jacob Hollenback hit two clutch shots from the line to give the Rams a 66-65 lead with less than 30 seconds to go.
Arlee called timeout with nine seconds on the clock to set up a final play. The Warriors tried to find a cutting Johnson, but the ball ended up in the hands of Darshan Bolen at the free throw line. As he was falling down, Bolen kicked it back to Tanner at the top of the key, who didn’t hesitate on his game winner that swished through the net in the final second. The Warriors chased down the junior into the far corner of the court, dog-piling on top of him in celebration.
Arlee improves to 16-1 and will wrap up its regular season versus the team behind them in the District 14C standings, second-place Charlo, on Thursday night. Loyola falls to 14-3 and will try to bounce back versus Anaconda on Friday.
The girls didn’t have equal drama in the end but saw back-and-forth action throughout a thrilling second half. Arlee held a 35-26 lead at halftime.
Loyola bounced back to tie the game at 47 at the end of the third quarter. The Breakers pushed the lead to eight early in the fourth quarter, but the Scarlets came back to take a two-point lead on a 3-pointer in the corner by Louetta Conko-Camel with less than three minutes left in the game.
But the young Breakers made the clutch plays down the stretch, including several tough layups by freshman Lani Walker, to pull ahead and win.
Loyola improves to 13-4 before a big District 6B game versus Anaconda. Arlee falls to 12-5 and will battle for the District 14C regular-season title versus Charlo on Thursday.