DEER LODGE — After two days of cancellations and a venue change, the Arlee and Twin Bridges boys basketball teams finally met in the Western C divisional challenge game Wednesday afternoon.
The two time-defending state champions squared off against a one-loss Falcons team for a chance to earn the final bid at the state tournament next Thursday in Billings, and the matchup lived up to the hype.
After the first quarter, the Warriors held a 14-13. But Twin Bridges gained control in the second to take a 29-22 lead at the halftime. Jake Hughes and Daniel Kruer got it going from deep in the second and helped spawn a huge run that gave the Falcons their halftime lead.
Warriors head coach then turned to his seniors to turn it up a notch in the second half, and win this game for themselves. Greg Whitesell, and Darshan Bolen led the attack to help Arlee claw their way back into the game. Twin bridges led 38-35 after three quarter of play.
The fourth quarter was back and forth, until Arlee grabbed their first lead since the second quarter with 5:07 left to play in the game. Twin Bridges put themselves in a position to win the game late, and this is where the drama ensued.
In the game’s final moments. Trailing 51-48 with the clock ticking toward zero, the Falcons’ Daniel Kruer buried a 3-pointer to tie the game with 1.8 seconds left in the game.
But Kruer was called for a blocking foul, giving Arlee a one-and-one at the free throw line to win the game. Bolen stepped to the line and buried the first free throw. The second rimmed out and Twin Bridges let off one final full-court heave that came up short. Arlee wins 52-51.
Darshan Bolen caught up with us after he made one of if not the most clutch free throws he has ever made. “I just knew I had to win it for my boys, they all came up to me “let’s go Dar” I can win it. Now we just have to go into practice and grind and get ready for the state tournament.”
“There’s a lot of good teams, there’s eight solid teams going into this class C which is exciting. You wouldn’t want to go in their and win it any other time. This is time where you want to go in there and try to see if you can stand at the top and hold the crown,” said head coach Zanen Pitts.
The Warriors have punched their ticket to state, but the road doesn’t get much easier for Arlee, which will face Scobey in the opening round. The Class C boys basketball state tournament is scheduled to start March 7 at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark in Billings.