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February 28, 2019



The season is dead; long live the season.

The high school basketball season officially ended for all Sanders County teams last week with the elimination of the Thompson Falls Blue Hawk boys and the Lady Hawks from the Western B divisional tournament in Ronan. The six other teams from Sanders County – the boys and girls squads from Hot Springs, Noxon and Plains – were done for the season after the District 14C tourney in Pablo the week before.

Which leaves us all now watching the other local teams, the ones that beat ours out at the district or divisional tournament level, in the State B and State C tournaments coming up in the next few weeks. The State C girls tournament will be played this week in Great Falls and the boys tourney will be in Billings the following week, while the combined State B tourneys will go down in Belgrade March 6-9.

A few of the teams from the west could do quite well in the coming weeks and here’s to hoping that they represent our area well.

***

It’s kind of interesting to look back only two weeks ago for some local perspective to what is going on in Class C basketball.

On the recent evening of Feb. 15, in the semifinals of the District 14C girls tourney in Pablo, coach Eddie Fultz and his Trotters very nearly defeated coach Bret Thompson and his Charlo Lady Vikings, but instead ended up losing that hard-fought battle 37-33.

What’s interesting about that result is the fact that Charlo has not lost since and will now be one of the favorites to contend for the State C title this weekend at Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

Since holding off the Trotters in that wild 14C semifinal two weeks ago, the Vikings have been very impressive indeed, going on to defeat Arlee 44-43 in the 14C chipper Feb. 16 and then sweeping to the Western C title in Butte last week.

At the Maroon Activity Center in Butte, Thompson’s Vikings defeated Drummond 50-36 Thursday, trimmed the West Yellowstone Wolverines 59-41 in the divisional semifinals Friday and then came back from 14 points down to stun Arlee again, this time 60-55 in overtime in the Western C championship game.

Think about that for a minute Trotter fans; your team was only a favorable bounce or a lucky break away from defeating Charlo and now those same Vikings are in the running for some all-time glory this weekend. It is not too much of a stretch to believe that that could be your Trotters playing at Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls this week instead of Charlo but, alas, that is why they play these games and a final result is just that, now and always, a final result that cannot be changed by simply wishing you could.

District 14C did turn out to be the dominant district among girl teams in the Western C (which includes districts 11C, 12C, 13C and 14C) though, as Arlee also won its way into the championship with an impressive performance in Butte, downing Ennis 53-43 in the first round and then blasting Manhattan Christian 62-38 in the semifinals to gain their rematch with Charlo.

Since Ennis came back to win third, and Arlee had already defeated the Mustangs, the Scarlets were not required to play a challenge game.

The Western C champion Vikings will play Savage, the second place team from the Eastern C, in the first round of the State C tourney at 6:30 p.m. Thursday in Great Falls. As the No. 2 seed from the Western C, the Arlee Scarlets will face Eastern C champ Scobey at 2 p.m. Thursday on the other side of the bracket, meaning another rematch of the 14C powers is possible this week in the Electric City.

***

The two-time defending State C champion Arlee Warriors also won their way into the Western C title game in the boys tournament, but Manhattan Christian, which had lost Western C and State C title games to Arlee during the Warriors’ title runs in 2017 and 2018, finally extracted some revenge from Arlee, winning 63-51 in the championship game Saturday.

Arlee was then forced into a challenge game with Twin Bridges. That game was set to be played in Philipsburg Monday but was rescheduled for Tuesday due to sever late-winter weather.

In the combined Western B divisional tournament in Ronan, the Florence Falcons won the girls crown and the Bigfork Vikings took the boys title. The Loyola girls and boys were the losers in both Western B title games as Florence broke the Breakers 43-38 and the Vikings fought off the fighting Rams 53-43.

Both Loyola teams then faced challenge games, both of which had not been played before press time.

***

With the top four teams from each tournament advancing, the combined Western A divisional tourneys were played in Hamilton last week.

With the boys, Butte Central won the championship game from Hamilton on Hamilton’s home court and Browning defeated Frenchtown in the consolation game while, with the girls, Columbia Falls claimed the title game from Browning and Libby defeated Butte Central in the consolation final.

The combined State A tournaments, featuring those eight teams from the Western A and eight others from the Eastern A, will also be played at Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls March 7-9.

On another note, for those of you who did not hear about this earlier, the Montana High School Association officially moved Thompson Falls down to 8-Man football during the annual MHSA board meeting in Billings several weeks ago.

In another move that will affect teams in Sanders County, Arlee is being moved back up to Class B after many years of competing in District 14C. Arlee teams will now be assigned to District 6B and Mission will be moved over to District 7B.

In other business from the January meeting, the board announced that football alignment will be based on specific enrollment figures: 1-65 for 6-Man; 65-130 for 8-Man; and 130-plus for 11-man. For schools like Thompson Falls petitioning to play at a lower level enrollment cannot exceed 140 for dropping down to 8-man or 70 or more for those dropping down to 6-Man, unless the petitioning school can demonstrate, like Thompson Falls was able to do, that its roster size is near of or below the average of its current classification and that success may come easier at a lower level.

It is not known at the time of this printing if Arlee will play 8-Man or 11-man football this coming fall.

 

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