Tate Bowler

Manhattan senior Tate Bowler looks to dish the ball out to the perimeter after driving the lane Friday against Three Forks.

MANHATTAN — After Finn Tesoro buried a 3 to stretch the lead to 20 to begin the second half, it appeared Manhattan was well on its way to a District 5B rout Friday night.

The lead grew to 21 on another 3-pointer by Caden Holgate, but the Tigers failed to score again from the field over the final 6:29 of the third quarter and then had to hang on for a 63-51 victory against Three Forks.

It was similar to Thursday’s game when Manhattan built a 13-point lead against Whitehall and then struggled in the second half.

“It was the same thing two nights in a row. We started out strong, had a really good first half, and then just kind of had a let down there in that third quarter,” Manhattan coach Wes Kragt said. “Both third quarters of the last two games is something that we need to change. We haven’t put together four quarters yet, but what I’ve seen with how we started is there’s potential there.”

The Tigers (3-0, 3-0 District 5B) took a 37-20 lead into halftime, but struggled against Three Forks’ pressure in the third quarter. The Wolves went on an 18-2 run, capped by back-to-back buckets off turnovers by Jacob Buchignani, to get within five, 45-40.

“You’re down 17, you can either crumble or come out and show that you have heart,” Wolves coach Terry Hauser said. “And they did, they showed that they had heart. I think the kids finally gained some confidence and know that they can play with people if they do what they’re coached.”

Three Forks twice got within three, 48-45 and 50-47, but was unable to get over the hump. Tesoro helped keep them at bay after burying a 3 with 2:12 remaining to stretch the Tigers’ lead to nine.

“They hit some big shots at the end. Finn hit that big three dang near out of bounds,” said Hauser. “Hit a couple daggers and that’s what good teams do. That’s why we can’t get down like that. We need to jump on them right away.”

Owen Long

Three Forks' Owen Long, left, is pressured by Manhattan's Colter Barta while dribbling the ball Friday night.

While Buchignani answered Tesoro’s 3 with one of his own with 1:42 to go, Manhattan closed out the game on a 6-0 run. Four of those points were inside buckets by Sven Stenberg.

“We ended up not playing conservative at the end and jumping back to the 12-point lead to seal the win,” said Kragt. “So it was a good win at home.”

While pleased with the comeback, Hauser stressed that his team has to start better.

“Man, we can’t start off like that. That’s two games in a row where we were down 12 against Columbus — could have been worse had they hit free throws — and then tonight,” he said. “They’re a tough team, obviously, but not 17 points better than us at the half.”

Tesoro finished with a game-high 19 points, while Austin Allen and Buchignani each tallied 16 for the Wolves.

Manhattan is off to a 3-0 start for the first time in nearly a decade, and it was just the second victory against the Wolves over the past five years.

“We got them once last year here, and that was one of our better games of the year. I think you can kind of see the confidence starting to build with these kids,” said Kragt. “It’s a little different playing not as the underdog and now as the team to beat. That’s just something that we got to get used to.”

Three Forks returned to action Saturday and lost a thrilling double overtime game at home to Townsend 75-71. Owen Long connected on six 3's in the contest en route to scoring a game-high 22 points, while Allen added 21 and Buchignani had 11.

Three Forks (0-3, 0-2 District 5B) is back in action Tuesday hosting Twin Bridges, while Manhattan hosts Big Timber Thursday.

Manhattan 63, Three Forks 51

Three Forks                5  15  20  11  -  51

Manhattan                16  21  8  18  -  63

THREE FORKS (0-2) - Austin Allen 4 8-9 16, Jacob Buchignani 6 3-3 16, Owen Long 4 0-1 10, Walker Long 0 1-2 1, Devon Potts 0 0-0 0, Ayden Warren 1 3-4 5, Collin Stone 1 0-0 3. Totals: 16 15-19 51.

MANHATTAN (3-0) - Caden Holgate 5 2-2 14, Colter Barta 0 0-0 0, Finn Tesoro 7 1-4 19, Jadon Pierce 0 0-0 0, Tate Bowler 3 0-0 6, Evan Douma 3 0-0 6, Corban Johnson 2 1-2 5, Wyatt Jones 0 0-0 0, Sven Stenberg 2 0-0 4, Markus Fenno 3 1-2 9. Totals: 25 5-10 63.

3-point goals: TF 4 (Long 2, Buchignani 1, Stone 1), Man 8 (Tesoro 4, Holgate 2, Fenno 2).

Townsend 75, Three Forks 71

Townsend       16  17  17   9  11  5  -  75

Three Forks    15  21  11  12  11  0  -  71

TOWNSEND (1-2) - Trey Hoveland 5 6-8 17, Colten Noyes 0 0-0 0, Ryan Racht 8 5-7 21, Camden Gerguson 0 0-0 0, Gavin Vandenacre 2 1-4 5, Braden Racht 0 0-0 0, Aaron Geiser 4 0-0 11, Devon Zeadow 5 6-12 16, Seth McDaid 1 0-0 3, Tizer Sandgray 1 0-1 2. Totals: 26 18-32 75.

THREE FORKS (0-3) - Austin Allen 4 11-13 21, Jacob Buchignani 3 5-6 11, Owen Long 7 2-2 22, Walker Page 2 2-3 6, Devon Potts 2 2-2 6, Ayden Warren 1 09-0 2, Collin Stone 1 1-2 3. Totals: 21 25-28 71.

3-point goals: Tow 5 (Geiser 3, Hoveland 1, McDaid 1), TF 6 (Long 6).