Subscribe for 33¢ / day

HAMILTON — Phillip Malatare wanted to go to the bench and put his head in his lap. 

Malatare could feel his stomach churning, and no, not in the nervous butterflies type of way. 

"I had to hold it in," Malatare said. "It was bad."

Arlee boys' basketball coach Zanen Pitts said Malatare had to run off the floor three times due to flu-related symptoms. Malatare estimated that number was closer to four or five.

And he wasn't alone. Will Mesteth battled the flu too, suppressing sickness all game, but they pressed on, topping Manhattan Christian, 69-60, in a rematch of last year's state title game.

"They're Warriors," Pitts said with a smile. "That's what we do. It's in our genes. That's what they were taught as little boys: to be warriors and fight and dig down deep. The end of that game was a group of boys that wanted it just a little bit more.

"And not to say Manhattan Christian didn't want it. Because they came out ballin'. They played really well. (We had) just a little bigger heart."

Mesteth, while fighting a throbbing headache, a persistent cough and nausea, scored a game-high 25 points. Malatare scored 12, 11 of which came in the first half. 

As Malatare became more and more "lethargic," as Pitts put it, Greg Whitesell stepped up and scored 16, 13 of which came in the second frame.

"That's why he's one of the three-headed monster," Pitts said of Whitesell. "That's a kid that had zero turnovers in the state championship last year. He's one of our best shooters in school history in my opinion. He stepped up. He rose to the occasion."

The game was an aggressive dog fight from the very beginning. Manhattan Christian won the opening tip and was first to put points on the board. From there, the lead changed four times.

Arlee grabbed its first substantial lead with under one minute to go in the first frame. Manhattan Christian's Sam Leep knotted up the score at 15 all off a baseline layup drive. 

But then came Mesteth. 

The senior guard hit a layup and then made a breakaway 3-pointer off the left wing to put the Warriors up 20-15. 

"If we let him go out and do what he can do, that's the show he'll put on every night for you," Malatare said of his fellow senior guard. "I have to have that guy behind me. If I have him, we won't be beat."

The Warriors widened the gap in the second quarter, at one point leading by 11. 

Arlee's biggest lead of the night, a 12-point spread, came with three minutes to go in the third quarter. The Warriors scored three straight buckets to force a Manhattan Christian timeout. 

But the Eagles rallied, capitalizing on three Arlee turnovers in a 2 1/2 minute span.

Caidin Hill made a corner three. Ryan Busch made two free throws. Caleb Bellach drove in a layup. Then Busch made a layup of his own.

By the end of the third quarter, Arlee only led by three. 

"We knew what they were going to throw at us," Mesteth said. "They knew what we were going to throw at them. We played them, what, four times the last four years or so in divisionals? We knew their game plan and they knew ours but we just had more heart. We wanted it more than them guys."

That heart came through in the fourth quarter. Mesteth and Whitesell combined for 17 of Arlee's 20 points in the final frame. 

"Everybody played their hearts out tonight," Mesteth said. "We need that as a team as a whole. We all can feel everybody's chemistry. We all play together that way.

"It all comes from the heart. You can't think about it.You have to play for your fans, your team, your coaches, family. You gotta dig. That's the outcome. You play better, you want it more than anybody else."

The Warriors have one more game before the sick ones, like Mesteth and Malatare, can get some quality rest.

But for now, Malatare's focused on getting a little sleep, and some soup and apple juice before playing Plains in the Western C Divisional chipper at 8 p.m. Saturday evening.


The Arlee boys weren't the only ones in the Western C Divisional semifinals. 

The Scarlets faced Twin Bridges in the game just before the Warriors' match, but the outcome was a little different as Arlee lost, 41-35. 

Twin Bridges hopped out to a 10-0 lead before Nellie Desjarlais made the Scarlets' first bucket. Desjarlais scored all of Arlee's seven points in the first quarter.

By halftime, the Falcons led by eight points. Coming out of half, the Scarlets went on a 5-point run to get within three, but that was as close as Arlee was going to get until midway through the fourth quarter. 

Arlee's Sydni Rogers scored five points on back-to-back possessions with five minutes left in the game to bring Arlee within three. 

Twin Bridges' Kailee Oliverson hit two back-to-back buckets after that and Arlee couldn't bring it closer. 

The Scarlets play Manhattan Christian in a loser-out game at 9 a.m. Saturday at Hamilton High School. 

Amie Just covers Griz football and Missoula-area preps. Follow her on Twitter @Amie_Just or email her at

You must be logged in to react.
Click any reaction to login.