BILLINGS -- Whitehall's Max Feight hit a runner at the buzzer to break a tie ball game, and the Trojans escaped with a 64-62 win against Loyola Sacred Heart at the Rimrock Auto Center on Saturday. The Rams' season ended one game short of the consolation championship.
In the chipper, Anaconda's inspired season fell three points short.
Malta turned up the pressure in the second half and rallied past Anaconda 54-51 for the Class B boys basketball state title.
It was the Mustangs' (21-5) third state championship since 2012 and their fourth trophy in six years. They also won in 2013 and were third in 2014. It is Malta’s seventh state championship overall.
“Stressful,” described Malta coach David Costin of his team’s title run. “Just once, I’d like it to be easy. But I have faith in our kids.”
Anaconda (18-10) was playing in its first title game since 1989 when the Copperheads were a Class A program.
Anaconda led by as many as 12, 25-13, in the second quarter.
“We came in the locker room and talked about how we saw other teams come back from 20 points down,” said Mustang junior center Taylor Matthews. “Why not us?
“In the second half we started getting a body on people and our shots were starting to fall.”
Matthews, who bruised his back in Friday’s double-overtime win against Missoula Loyola, finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 rebounds.
“I feel better now. This is amazing,” he said with a smile.
Senior guard Nate Costin added 15 points for Malta, including the go-ahead basket with 1:31 remaining off a steal by Ostin Welch.
Anaconda had 13 turnovers in the second half after having only six in the first. Malta outscored the Copperheads 19-15 in the third quarter and 20-11 in the fourth.
“We ran our offense and extended our defense,” said Anaconda coach Bill Hill of his team’s first-half success. “(In the second half) We made very poor passing decisions. The last four minutes of the fourth quarter was the worst basketball we've played in our last 15 games.”
Braxton Hill led the Copperheads with a game-high 22 points. “We haven’t seen a guard like him,” said Costin. “He can muscle right through you.”
Trent Mikalatos had a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds for the Copperheads, while Bobby Swainston added 10 points. Swainston (eight) and Mikalatos (seven) had 15 of Anaconda’s 25 first-half points.
Malta had to survive three Anaconda shot attempts in the final 28.6 seconds.
“I was just holding my breath,” said coach Costin. “I’m lucky I didn’t pass out over there.”
Whitehall 64, Loyola 62
It was Loyola's second loss to Whitehall this season and sixth overall (19-6). All six of the Rams' defeats came to teams still alive at the state tournament. Loyola lost twice to Whitehall, twice to Anaconda and twice to Malta. The Mustangs and the Copperheads square off in the championship game at 6:30 p.m.
Feight finished with 19 points for the Trojans, while Loyola's Ryan McHugh led all scorers with 24 points. He connected on an impressive eight 3-pointers. Parker Davis added 15 points and Fisher Richardson finished with 11.
Whitehall's win was short-lived, though, as the Shelby boys eventually claimed the bronze trophy. The Coyotes bested the Trojans 52-42 in the third-place game.
"It really helped a lot," said Shelby junior Aaron White of last year's state experience where his team was two and out. "Just seeing how it went. How different it is. How hard you have to work in the off-season to win at the state tournament."
White and teammate TJ Reynolds each had 15 points to lead the Coyotes. Andrew Johnson, the only senior who played for Shelby, added 12 points and nine rebounds.
Braden Larsen and Andrew Simon each had 10 points for Whitehall.
Shelby beat Lame Deer 76-48 on Saturday morning. Aaron White scored 21 to lead Shelby, while Doc Small had 21 for Lame Deer.