Celebration Time

Three Forks senior Zach Pitcher, center, is mobbed by teammates after hitting the game-winning shot against Manhattan Christian Saturday night. The Wolves halted Christian’s 35-game win streak with a 63-63 victory.

CHURCHILL — As a youth, Saturday was something Zach Pitcher always dreamed about. Now it’s a reality.

The Three Forks senior swished the game-winning bucket Saturday night after gathering a long rebound as the Wolves stunned defending Class C champion Manhattan Christian.

Three Forks’ 63-62 victory not only handed the Eagles their first loss of the season, but halted the team’s 35-game winning streak.

Hauser Drives

Three Forks senior Micaiah Hauser dribbles the ball into the lane Saturday night as Manhattan Christian's Matthew Kenney defends.

“We always go at those guys,” said Pitcher. “Summer it was competitive too. They beat us pretty bad in the summer, so it means a lot to beat them this time.”

Christian (9-1) had not lost since the 2018 state championship game against Arlee, but nearly kept its streak alive following a furious fourth quarter rally. The Eagles erased a 10-point deficit and led by three with 52.6 seconds remaining before the stunning finish by the Wolves.

“That was tough, especially after the boys fought so hard to stay in it,” Christian coach Jeff Bellach said. “Obviously we had to have a few breaks there.”

Those breaks began when an assistant coach for Three Forks was given a technical after the Wolves were called for a block. Sam Leep buried four consecutive free throws to trim the deficit to 53-47, and then the senior scored on a short jumper to make it a four-point game.

“Changed the whole momentum. It was a four-point game after that. We let them get going,” Three Forks coach Terry Hauser lamented. “But our kids luckily held their composure. We didn’t give up.”

The Wolves (7-2) stretched the lead to seven on a pair of free throws by Micaiah Hauser, but Christian’s Seth Amunrud came off the bench to bury back-to-back 3’s to make it a one possession game at 57-56. Then Leep gave the Eagles their first lead of the contest, 58-57, after converting a turnover into a layup.

Shot Attempt

Three Forks' Zane Hanson gets off a shot Saturday night as Manhattan Christian's Charlie Keith defends.

“Seth came in and drained those two threes. That’s why we put him in,” said Bellach. “And it was pretty cool to see him do that.”

After Josiah Amunrud scored to make it 60-57, the Wolves got a pair of free throws from Micaiah Hauser and then a bucket by Austin Allen to regain the lead at 62-61.

Leep connected on a pair of free throws with 8.3 seconds remaining to put Christian back in front. But after Micaiah Hauser missed at the other end, the ball wound up in the hands of Pitcher following a long rebound.

“I didn’t feel good about it when I saw him get the ball,” said Bellach. “Kudos to him for making the play. We’ll do what we can to start a new one (streak).”

It was the only field goal of the contest for Pitcher, who finished with four points.

Micaiah Hauser tallied a game-high 27 points, which included five 3’s in the first half, and Dustin Dalke chipped added 15.

Protecting The Ball

Manhattan Christian's Seth Amunrud keeps the ball away from Three Forks' Dustin Dalke while trying to make a second half pass Saturday night.

“You’ve got to have luck on your side to win these big games and I know that more than anybody. We’ve lost some tight ones in tournaments and won some great ones,” said coach Hauser. “But I don’t know if any of them in my career compare to this one.”

Leep finished with 26 points for the Eagles, while Charlie Keith came off the bench to add 10.

The typically hot-shooting Eagles connected on just 5 of 28 attempts from behind the arc and committed 15 turnovers.

“We didn’t shoot it well. Credit them and their defense,” said Bellach. “They did a good job of getting back and locking up our transition and then getting out and contesting some shots that we normally hit.”

Micaiah Hauser also led the Wolves Thursday night with a game-high 23 points in a 64-56 non-conference loss to unbeaten Butte Central (10-0).

Tebarek Hill, Matt Kenney and Leep each finished in double figures Friday as the Eagles beat Gardiner 68-47 in a District 11C clash.

Butte Central 64, Three Forks 56

Butte Central             9  14  17  24  -  64

Three Forks                6  12  14  24  -  56

BUTTE CENTRAL (10-0) - Jared Simkins 1 2-2 4, Luke Heaphy 2 2-4 7, Matt Simkins 2 0-1 4, Braden Harrington 3 2-4 9, Trevor Neumann 7 0-0 20, Gator Yelenich 3 2-6 8, Ryan Wahl 0 0-0 0, Aaron Richards 5 2-4 12. Totals: 23 10-21 64.

THREE FORKS (6-2) - Trenton Nimmick 0 0-0 0, Micaiah Hauser 7 6-8 23, Owen Long 3 1-2 9, Zach Pitcher 0 0-0 0, Dustin Dalke 7 4-5 18, Tyler Williams 2 0-0 3, Austin Allen 1 1-2 3, Zane Hansen 0 0-0 0. Totals: 19 12-17 56.

3-point goals: BC 8 (Neumann 6, Heaphy 1, Harrington 1), TF 6 (Hauser 3, Long 2, Williams 1).

Manhattan Christian 68, Gardiner 47

Christian                   19  17  23   9   -  68

Gardiner                     8  15  13  11  -  47

MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (9-0) - Sam Leep 4 4-4 15, Josiah Amunrud 2 0-2 6, Matt Kenney 5 0-0 12, Logan Leep 0 0-0 0, Tebarek Hill 5 0-0 13, Caidin Hill 1 1-2 3, Charlie Keith 2 0-0 5, Seth Amunrud 1 0-0 3, Jacob Bos 0 0-0 0, Jake Leep 0 0-0 0, Devan Walhof 4 3-4 11, William Kimm 0 0-0 0. Totals: 24 8-12 68.

GARDINER (6-2) - Elijah Bryd 4 3-6 12, Taylor Rose 0 3-4 3, Baylor Arterburn 0 0-0 0, Luke Stermitz 2 1-3 6, John McDonald 0 0-0 0, Preston Robert 0 0-0 0, Colter Lang 0 0-0 0, Jackson Brendenberg 5 0-2 11, Luke Kelser 0 0-0 0, Evan Guengerich 7 1-2 15. Totals: 18 8-17 47.

3-point goals: MC 12 (S. Leep 3, T. Hill 3, J. Amunrud 2, Kenney 2, Keith 1), Gar 3 (Bryd 1, Stermitz 1, Brendenberg 1).

Three Forks 63, Manhattan Christian 62

Three Forks              15  14  15  19  -  63

Christian                   13   8   20  21  -  62

THREE FORKS (7-2) - Trenton Nimmick 0 0-0 0, Micaiah Hauser 8 5-9 27, Owen Long 3 1-1 7, Zach Pitcher 1 2-2 4, Dustin Dalke 6 3-4 15, Zach Butcher 0 0-0 0, Austin Allen 3 1-5 7, Mayson Shively 0 1-2 1, Zane Hanson 1 0-1 2. Totals: 22 13-24 63.

MANHATTAN CHRISTIAN (9-1) - Sam Leep 9 7-8 26, Josiah Amunrud 3 0-2 6, Matt Kenney 0 0-0 0, Tebarek Hill 0 1-3 1, Caidin Hill 4 0-0 9, Charlie Keith 3 3-3 10, Seth Amunrud 2 0-0 6, Jake Leep 0 0-0 0, Devan Walhof 1 2-2 4. Totals: 22 13-20 62.

3-point goals: TF 6 (Hauser 6), MC 5 (S. Amunrud 2, S. Leep 1, C. Hill 1, Keith 1).