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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Wolves open state Wednesday against Poplar

 

Melissa Jenkins/Three Forks Voice

Corey Yecny puts up the shot in the semifinals against Huntley Project.

For the second straight season, the Three Forks High School boys basketball team is headed to the state tournament.

The Wolves will open the Class B Tournament Wednesday, March 6 at the Belgrade Events Center at 3 p.m. against Poplar, the top seed from the Northern B Division.

Three Forks qualified for state by finishing second at last week's Southern B Divisional Tournament in Billings. The Wolves defeated Lodge Grass 63-57 in the quarterfinals, Huntley Project 57-48 in the semifinals, and fell 43-30 in the Divisional Title game to undefeated and top-ranked Colstrip.

Hauser said to have both Three Forks teams at state for the second straight year is awesome.

"I think people sometimes take it for granted getting to the state tournament. It's not easy, you have to be playing your best basketball of the year for two weekends in a row. And our girls, this is their third year in a row and together our second," he said.

Hauser is also excited for a chance to play more basketball with the senior class.

"As I've said before I love all of these kids and these seniors have an extremely special place in my heart. I'm happy for them and I am going to really enjoy this last week with them. It's crazy to even say that because it feels like yesterday this group of kids were still in grade school playing in traveling tournaments all over the state," he said. "Now here they are in high school still doing it but on a lot more competitive and thrilling stage, and they get to do it basically at home in front of all their friends, family, teachers and community."

With the venue so close to Three Forks, Hauser knows there will be a large pro Wolves crowd.

"That place is going to be filled with red and white and I can imagine we might even have some people there not even from Three Forks, just the valley rooting us on. It's going to be an unbelievable week of basketball and I cannot wait although I'm trying to take it easy because it obviously goes way too fast," he said.

After falling in the finals Saturday in a heartbreaker against Colstrip, Hauser said his team isn't satisfied.

"I truly believe that it's pretty open this year and we almost took down the number one team in the state who I think is worthy of that seed. I hope my boys have as much confidence in themselves as us coaches do because if they do, we have the chance to do something special this week," he said.

Looking towards the opening round game against Poplar, Hauser said they are a solid basketball team.

"They want to run it and will be a lot like Lodge Grass and Colstrip. The good thing is we played two similar teams this weekend in Billings so that should help prepare us for them especially since we really don't have a ton of time to prepare since the turnaround is so quick. If we can know when to run with them but be disciplined about it, and in the half court take good shots and force them to play defense it will help our chances because they want the ball, they don't want to be on defense. If we can play defense like we did Saturday night, we will have a good shot to win. They also have a really good point guard that we need to contain because he's a heck of a player," he said.

DIVISIONAL

Trailing 10-9 at the end of the first quarter Thursday night against Lodge Grass in the opening round of the Southern B Divisional Tournament, the Three Forks High School boys basketball team would face adversity when senior standout Payden Lynn went down with an ankle injury mere seconds into the second quarter. Needing a spark from the bench juniors Micaiah Hauser and Zach Pitcher stepped up huge combining for 23 points in the final three quarters to help lead the Wolves to a thrilling 63-57 win over the high-powered Indians.

"We battled and guys stepped up. Zach (Pitcher) had 12, he stepped up huge. That is what good teams do. You have a guy go down and your bench steps up and plays well. That is what happened tonight. The guys stepped up and I am super proud of them," said Hauser.

Senior Colter Miller led the team with a game high 17 points, Hauser added 13, Pitcher finished with 12, and Dustin Dalke added 10 points. Bryce Olson finished with five, Corey Yecny had four and Lynn added two points.

The first quarter was a feeling out process between the two high-powered teams. No team would have bigger than a four-point lead with the Indians taking a 10-9 advantage into the second.

Lodge Grass would score the first five points of the second quarter before the Wolves came to life behind the hot shooting of Hauser and Pitcher. Hauser would score 11 in the quarter including three three-pointers. Coach Hauser said that is the most confidence he had seen Micaiah play with since he came back to the lineup a couple weeks ago and it was really big for the team. 17-2 run from the Wolves would push the lead to 26-17 and they would take a 35-24 lead into halftime.

Miller and Dalke had eight points each in the half and Pitcher added five including a deep three pointer.

Three Forks would take as big as a 12-point lead in the second half before a furious Lodge Grass rally to tie the game at 48. Miller would step up huge in the final minutes and his layup and subsequent free throw pushed the lead to 52-48. The Indians would cut the lead to 55-54 before a Hauser layup and Yecny basket pushed the lead to 59-54.

The Wolves advanced to the finals with a 57-48 win Friday night over Huntley Project

Hauser led the team in scoring with 17, Yecny added 11, \Miller was also in double figures with 10, Pitcher and Olson each had seven, and Dalke added five points.

The Red Devils would score the first four points of the game before a Hauser three put the Wolves on the board and cut the lead to 4-3 It was the first of four three pointers to start the game from Three Forks. Dalke would answer with a three of his own to give Three Forks their first lead of the game 6-4. Olson would hit the third consecutive three for the Wolves to push the lead to 9-4. After Huntley matched with a three of their own, Hauser connected on a second three to give Three Forks a 12-7 lead. After four points from the Devils, Dalke scored the first two-point basket for Three Forks to put them up 14-11. Both teams would add to before the end of the first including a basket by Olson to give the Wolves a 16-13 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Hauser would score the first five points of the second quarter including another three pointer that gave Three Forks their biggest lead of the game 21-13. The Project would score the next four points before a Yecny basket to up the score to 23-17. The Wolves leading scorer Colter Miller would score his first points of the game with 4:17 left in the half when his free throw made it a 24-17 game. The Devils would score the next six to cut the lead to 24-23 before Miller hit his first field goal of the half to move the lead back to three. Pitcher would put an exclamation point on the half for Three Forks when he drained a three with two seconds left in the half to give the Wolves a 29-23 halftime lead.

Hauser scored the first Wolves points of the third quarter with his fourth three pointer of the game. Yecny would follow with a basket to give three Forks their biggest lead all night 34-25. Minutes later Pitcher would connect on another three to give the Wolves a double digit lead 39-29.

Three Forks would lead 43-33 at the end of three.

A Yecny basket and free throw would set an early tone in the fourth and increase the lead to 13.

Melissa Jenkins/Three Forks Voice

Micaiah Hauser gets the shot over the Lodge Grass defender at the Southern B Divisional Tournament in Billings.

The Red Devils were however not done and scored six straight before two Yecny free throws.

FINALS

After falling behind 10-6 at the end of the first quarter Saturday, the Wolves stormed back in the second outscoring the Colts 16-5 in the second to take a 22-15 lead into halftime.

Colstrip would outscore the Wolves in both of the final quarters to take home the championship trophy.

Miller lead the team with 16, Olson added 10, Hauser had six, Dalke and Yecny each had four points.

Editor's Note: The Three Forks Voice will be posting stories following the conclusion of games at the state tournament. The stories can be found at http://www.threeforksvoice.com or on the Three Forks Voice Facebook pave. Stories and photos will be posted several minutes after Three Forks High School basketball games.

 

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