BILLINGS — For the third consecutive year it’ll be Arlee and Manhattan Christian deciding Class C’s boys basketball state championship.
Free throw shooting made a difference down the stretch as the Arlee Warriors are still on target for a third straight State C title.
For the second straight night, the Warriors knocked off a previously unbeaten team, this time taking down Chinook 72-61 on Friday. Arlee beat Scobey 63-57 in Thursday’s quarterfinals.
The Warriors built an 11-point lead in Friday’s semifinal before Chinook stormed back to tie it at 41 on a free throw with 39 seconds left in the third quarter. Moments later Chinook’s Hunter Neibauer came up with a steal under Arlee’s basket and hit a jumper from inside the free throw line as time expired. That forced a 43-43 tie entering the final quarter.
Arlee quickly jumped back in front with a 13-4 run to open the fourth and held off a couple Sugarbeeter runs. Greg Whitesell led the Warriors in scoring with 29 points thanks to a giant fourth quarter. He also had 10 rebounds. Lane Johnson added 16 and Isaac Fisher had 14.
Chinook was hit with foul trouble in the second half when Brendan Edwards picked up his fourth late in the third quarter and guard Isaac Bell fouled out in the fourth. Cord Schneider tied for a game-high in points with 29 on 12-of-16 shooting.
Arlee will meet Manhattan Christian in the championship Saturday at 8 p.m.
Chinook faces Fairview in a 9:30 a.m. loser-out game Saturday morning.
Manhattan Christian 40, Melstone 36
A slow start didn’t stop Manhattan Christian from winning Friday’s late semifinal 40-36 over Melstone and advancing to Saturday’s title game.
The Eagles (25-0) led Melstone 9-5 after one. The Broncs answered with 16-7 run to close the half highlighted by a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from eighth-grader Bryce Grebe. Melstone led 21-16 at half.
Moments into the third Caleb Bellach threw down dunk to spark a small run that regained the lead for Manhattan Christian. But the teams combined for just 11 points in the period.
Melstone nursed a 26-22 lead into the final quarter, then played some early keep-away before the teams traded a handful of quick baskets.
With 2:59 left in the game Bellach rattled home a free throw to complete a personal 8-0 run for a 32-31 Eagles lead. Josiah Amunrud completed a three-point play on M.C.’s next possession as part of a 12-0 run.
Brody Grebe ended Melstone’s drought with exactly 1:00 left when he rattled home a 3-pointer to draw within 36-34. The Broncs chose not to foul after the inbound and with 30 seconds left Grebe came up with a steal outside of Manhattan Christian’s 3-point line.
The Broncs, though, were whistled for a travel with 11 seconds left, forcing them to quickly foul. Sam Leep hit two free throws to put the Eagles up 38-34. Grebe dashed to the other end delivering a thunder dunk with 6.9 seconds left to draw Melstone within 38-36.
Bellach iced it moments later with a pair of free throws for Manhattan Christian. He led the Eagles with 13 points. Brody Grebe led everybody with 16 points and seven rebounds.
Manhattan Christian will tip off against Arlee at 8 p.m. in the state championship. Melstone draws Scobey in a loser-out game at 11 a.m.