Headed into the season, the Arlee Warriors have had a lot of pressure on them.
Warriors coach Zanen Pitts knew the team chemistry would not be the same as his team headed into the start of the season without their star players Phillip Malatare and Will Mesteth.
Starting out the season, Pitts knew his team didn’t lack firepower, though he knew it was going to be tough start as his team prepared to head into the Native American Classic, playing high-caliber teams from the state of Montana.
Pitts also knew Arlee has three of its starting five pieces returning from a team that has won back-to-back Montana High School Association state titles and finished runner-up during the 2015-16 campaign.
As the Warriors prepare for the season that Pitts refers to as “Basketball 101,” heading into the break is when they’ve traditionally begun their infamous runs to state glory.
This year, an experienced Arlee team didn’t sputter out of the gate as they are headed into the break with a 5-1 record.
The Warriors’ record is 5-1 against some high-quality opponents with their only loss coming against Rocky Boy. Arlee defeated Lodge Grass 65-58 and has already begun to showcase their dominance in their conference.
The Warriors, who traditionally take tens of thousands of shots during the break, will look to continue that trend as they will begin to prepare for not only their conference play, but also prepare for their District and Divisional play, which includes Manhattan Christian, the team that many have labeled as one of the top-notch contenders to finally overhaul the Warriors’ reign at the top.
Will Manhattan Christian have enough to overpower Arlee? That question remains to be seen, with the Warriors returning so many of their key pieces from last year’s team.
How the Warriors adjust should make a significant difference in where they can position themselves come playoff time.
Pitts, who has developed a reputation for being a basketball master-mind, will no doubt make the necessary adjustments against Christian. The Warriors should get multiple looks at the Eagles, and that could make a difference. In 2016, Pitts was able to pull the Eagles out of their zone defensive scheme and his Warriors were able to drive to the basket for a number of quick lay-ups.
Is this the year Manhattan Christian finally overhauls the Warriors as they prepare to head into the crucial second half of the season? Pitts might have something to say about that, and after his team had a quality outing at the Native American Classic in Havre, there is no doubt that could be an indicator for things to come.
Arlee 70, St. Regis 25
Arlee (4-0, 6-1)
St. Regis 8 10 3 4 – 25
Arlee 8 32 22 8 – 70
ST. REGIS – Ian Farris 9, Andrew Sanford 8, Nic Day 4, Caleb Ball 2, Adam Ball 2.
ARLEE – Greg Whitesell 10 3-4 26, Isaac Fisher 6 2-4 14, Cody Tanner 4 1-1 9, Billy Fisher 4 0-0 8, Levi Fullerton 3 1-1 7, Darshan Bolen 1 1-4 3, Lane Schall 2, Nate Coulson 0 1-2 1.
3FGs – SR0, A3 (Whitesell 3). (Fr21Dec18)
Arlee 75, Plains 66
Arlee (3-0, 5-1)
Arlee 17 19 18 21 – 75
Plains 22 11 16 17 – 66
ARLEE – Greg Whitesell 12 6-6 32, Isaac Fisher 8 0-2 18, Darshan Bolen 3 3-7 10, Chase Gardner 2 0-0 6, Billy Fisher 2 1-2 5, Lane Schall 2 0-4 4, Cody Tanner 2.
PLAINS – Derick Curry 15, Treydon Brouillette 12, Matt McCracken 11, Jake Weyers 11, Esvin Reyes 10, Nathan McNulty 7.
3FGs – A7 (Whitesell 2, I.Fisher 2, Gardner 2, Bolen), P7 (Curry 2, Brouillette 2, McCracken, McNulty, Weyers). (Tu18Dec18)
— John Heglie contributed to this article.