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By Jack H. Smith
Three Forks Voice 

Wolves open with Deer Lodge

 

March 11, 2020

Melissa Jenkins

Dustin Dalke returned for the Wolves at the divisional tournament. He had missed the previous four games due to injury.

For the third straight season, the Three Forks High School boys basketball team is heading to the Class B State Tournament. The Wolves finished second at last week's Southern B Divisional Tournament and will open state Thursday night against Deer Lodge. The game is scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. at the Butte Civic Center.

The two teams both finished second at their divisional tournaments and the opening round game at state will be a rematch of a February 14 game where the Wolves picked up a 46-40 home victory.

Three Forks Head Coach Terry Hauser said it is very fortunate for both teams to have played the last weekend of the regular season.

"We struggled with their 1-3-1 zone a little and just struggled to score in every aspect. Some of that could have been the first game we had played without Dustin (Dalke) as well. I've already watched a lot of film and can see ways we can take advantage of their gaps in their defense," Hauser said. "So hopefully the boys will be prepared for the 1-3-1 this time. We can't give up second and third chances. Deer Lodge lives off what I call 'garbage buckets', getting offensive rebounds, loose balls in the key and scoring on those opportunities. So we need to be disciplined and do our jobs. Moving the ball, quick ball reversals and making the zone move and forcing them to break down on our guards than attacking and getting penetration is the key on offense."

The Wolves qualified for state with two wins at last week's divisional tournament, the first a 50-44 quarterfinal win over Colstrip and a 45-37 semifinal win over top-ranked Huntley Project. Three Forks fell in the finals 73-50 to Lodge Grass.

QUARTERFINALS

You could not have asked for a better start to a game for the Three Forks High School boys basketball team. The Wolves scored the first 20 points of the game and held on late in their 50-44 win over Colstrip in a quarterfinal matchup at the Southern B Divisional Tournament in Billings.

The Wolves stormed out of the gates in the first scoring the first 20 points of the game and taking a commanding 20-2 lead at the end of the quarter.

"They came out and executed the game plan. I told them if we communicate and talk on defense, we have a chance to do really big things this year, and in the first quarter that is what we did. When we play four quarters, we are really tough to beat. A good game plan, good scouting report going in and we executed. I'm really proud of these kids," said Terry Hauser.

The Colts would battle back in the second and whittled the lead to 27-15 at the half. Micaiah Hauser had a big first half for Three Forks leading the way with 13 points including a trio of three-pointers.

Colstrip continued to chip away at the lead in the third and cut the deficit to 33-31 with 30 seconds left in the quarter. Dustin Dalke would answer back for the Wolves with his third bucket of the quarter to put Three Forks up 35-31 going into the final quarter.

Coach Hauser said it was amazing to have Dalke back in the lineup after missing the last four games due to a leg injury.

"He's not 100 percent. But he's a tough kid and tough individual. It's amazing to have him back in the lineup. He makes us so much tougher and our kids thrive off of him. We are lucky to have him back, very fortunate, Hauser said.

Dalke said when he went down with an injury, he was really upset but his teammates stepped up.

"They did a lot for this team and now that I'm back playing with them, I am really excited. And they are glad that I'm back," he said.

The Colts cut the lead to one their first possession of the fourth, and the Wolves would respond with a Zach Pitcher three, and a bucket and a free throw from Hauser to go up 41-34. Hauser was not done and his basket with 3:18 left pushed the lead to 43-34

Colstrip battled back and would pull to within 45-40 with 1:10 left. Dustin Dalke answered back in emphatic fashion with a putback on a missed shot to increase the Wolves lead to 47-40.

Dalke who was fouled on the play, made the free throw to put Three Forks up 48-40.

Hauser led Three Forks in scoring with 20, Dalke was also in double figures with 11, Long had eight, Pitcher finished with seven and Allen added four.

SEMIFINALS

Three Forks avenged a season-opening 54-38 loss to Huntley Project and advanced to the finals with a 45-37 victory.

Following the game, Hauser said it was amazing to hold them to 37 points.

He also lauded the way his team followed the game plan.

"They executed as well as any team I've coached. Every single kid did their job," he said.

Along with the attention to detail, Hauser discussed how his team is a family.

"I always talk about family and this group is the epitome of that. Every kid cares about each other," he said.

Three Forks took an early 5-0 lead after a three from Micaiah Hauser and a layup from Long. After taking a 10-5 lead, the Red Devils scored the next three points before an Allen bucket with under a minute left to put the Wolves up 12-8. Three Forks had five players score in the quarter with Dustin Dalke, and Zach Pitcher also scoring.

The Wolves were fierce to start the second and took a 20-11 lead after consecutive three-pointers from Hauser and Long. Three Forks would take 22-14 lead into the half after Huntley Project scored with time running out.

The Red Devils battled back in the third chipping the lead to 24-21 before Hauser answered with another long three to make it a 27-21 game. Long would hit a three on the next Three Forks possession to increase the lead to 30-21. After a Red Devil basket, Hauser hit an incredible shot driving to the basket to put Three Forks up 32-23. Huntley Project would score the final points of the quarter and trailed 32-25 going into the fourth.

The Wolves would go up eight on a basket from Hauser and increased the lead to 38-28 with two free throws from Pitcher at the 5:21 mark. Hauser would find Dalke whose bucket to put Three Forks up 40-28. Huntley would cut the lead 40-33 with three minutes left before a Hauser free throw stopped the run and gave the Wolves a 41-33 lead. The Red Devils battle right back pulled within 41-37 with 2:15 left in regulation.

Hauser drained two free throws to put Three Forks 43-37 with under two minutes left. Neither team would score for over a minute before Long put Three Forks up 44-37 win under 30 seconds left.

Hauser led the Wolves with a game-high 21 points. Long added nine, Dalke had eight, Pitcher had four and Allen added three.

FINALS

The Wolves who had battled injuries the past two years at the Divisional Tournament were once again faced with adversity in the finals when Hauser injured his shooting hand early in the first quarter.

Despite not having Hauser for several stretches during the game, Three Forks trailed just 14-8 at the end of the first and 33-25 at halftime.

It was a big night for Long who had five three-pointers and finished with a game 22 points. Despite his injury, Hauser still finished in double figures with 15. Dalke who battled foul trouble throughout the game ended his night with six and Pitcher added five.

Coach Hauser said the team has definitely battled through adversity the last couple years and this year hasn't been any different.

"This year the kids have shown a ton of resilience and all the kids have stepped up. Tyler Williams went down at Manhattan Christian and then Dustin (Dalke) a month later. Zane (Hansen) and Trenton (Nimmick) have played a lot more minutes and done a great job of embracing their role. Trenton has been outstanding on defense. We put him on the point guard every game and he pressures them full-court the whole time he is in the game. Making it miserable for their guards, you can see the frustration in them and how tired they get when Trenton is on the floor. Mayson Shively has given us great minutes as well," he said. "Since Dustin got hurt we only lost one game and that was Saturday night. That shows what a great team we have. He played all weekend and you could see he was hurting but he sucked it up and played more minutes than any of us coaches thought he would be able to. He used to guard the opposing team's best player but obviously can't now so Zach Pitcher took that roll on and did a tremendous job this weekend holding one of the better players in the state Friday night to 0-10 from the field only having one point from the free-throw line. Owen (Long) and Austin (Allen) have been outstanding all year long and keep getting better."

Coach Hauser praised the way Micaiah has played through two injuries.

Melissa Jenkins

Three Forks Head Coach Terry Hauser hugs Zach Pitcher after the Wolves semifinal victory over Huntley Project.

"Can't say enough about Micaiah what he did at districts playing with a dislocated finger and I thought he was the best player on the floor at the Metra every game we played. He hurt his hand Saturday night first play of the game and you could see it on the kids' faces how worried they were. I had to call a timeout and bring them together and they played great after that which again shows how tough this team is handling another situation and battling through it. Micaiah taped his hand up and came back in only really being able to mainly use his left hand and still played awesome. You could tell it was just too much by the end of the third quarter. The kids were tired and just didn't have enough in the tank but they played hard till the buzzer rang. Never gave up and that's all you can ask for," he said.

Hauser added most teams would not be playing in the state tournament if they had to through what Three Forks has this season.

"Micaiah and Dustin both might not be 100 percent but they will battle and they know that this team will step up from the coaching staff to the players and continue to give ourselves a chance to win. They have proved more to me and probably anyone that has watched them close this year than winning any championship," he said. "Winning is nothing compared to winning the way we have this year dealing with adversity and doing it with such great character. We always talk about being a family and this team exemplifies the meaning of it. I am confident they will continue to make us proud in Butte Thursday night. I can't wait it's going to be another great weekend."

 

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