Arlee High School boys basketball coach Zanen Pitts is always looking for ways his team can improve even when they are winning games against quality opponents by significant margins.
The Warriors made their final statement to the rest of Class C when they overhauled the Plains Horsemen, a team that, a year ago to this day, was ranked No. 1 in Class C, by a score of 83-39.
The lopsided victory may have alarmed the Warriors’ District opponents but Pitts is still focused on the task at hand as his team remains virtually unchallenged headed into the Christmas break.
Pitts has stated the magic number of significant things he would like to shore up over the break as his team prepares to head into the second half of the season Jan. 2 hosting a much-improved Class B Mission team at Arlee High School.
“I want our team to be crisper every day and every game,” Pitts stated. “There is no break from working on improving in basketball. I don’t care how much we are winning or losing by because our big thing is that you can’t take a break. From step A to B, you have to give it 100 percent and that really helps solidify our offensive and defensive rotations and zone defenses. I want zero shots uncontested, each defender jammed, and when the ball comes off the rim we are going after it.”
Warriors star player Phillip Malatare, whose star power in the valley and throughout the region continues to grow on a nightly basis, buried the Horsemen with 3-point attempts. Malatare sunk five consecutive 3-pointers in the second quarter to really allow Arlee the separation they needed in order to defeat Plains by 44 points on their home floor.
“I think they are a good shooting team and they got on our shooters well,” Pitts said. “Our goal was to make sure that none of them were able to get open and our team pretty much contested every shot. I am not going to take anything away from the Horseman because they shot the ball extremely well. We were just able to exploit them with our defense and able to execute. They didn’t hit a single three. Their players were 0-for-whatever.”
Now the defending Class C champs can focus on shooting, rotations, and refine their game, something Pitts stated was a critical turning point in being able to turn his talented team into champions.
“We are at a point right now where I’ve never had a team this advanced this early in the season headed into the break,” Pitts said. “Now we have to refine what we do during the break. We get a little bit more time shooting and working on our rotation because the stars are aligning for us to win a championship.”
Pitts paused after making that statement and acknowledged anything in life can and will happen.
“Even giants get slammed and we have to stay focused and know exactly what we need to do on the basketball court,” Pitts said. “Practicing is just like a homework assignment. The more studying you put into it, if you read the book, then you probably are going to get a pretty good grade. Our team knows they aren’t entitled to anything and they will do anything in order to get the ‘w.’ They’ll know if they don’t win, they’ve done everything they need to do in practice to be successful in the game.”
Pitts stated the team will shoot a minimum of three to four hundred three-point shots a day and that is just the shots they have to make during the course of practice.
Warriors to hang championship banner when they host Bulldogs
The Arlee High School basketball team will raise its banner to commemorate the 2016-2017 Class C Montana State championship victory over Manhattan Christian when they host the Mission Bulldogs Tuesday afternoon at Arlee High School gymnasium.
The Warriors, who will play in their second consecutive Class C state title basketball, will be going for their third consecutive Saturday night game this season.
Pitts has stated the Warriors, who are currently undefeated this season, are one of the best teams he has had since taking over as head coach of the Warriors at this juncture of the season.
“This team is as in shape as any team I’ve ever played on or coached,” Pitts said. “They are strong, fast and more in shape and I could play them for 32 minutes. They could be pressed for 32 minutes and they would be able to handle it.”
In spite of all of the momentum, Pitts and his coaching staff continue to try to keep the kids grounded.
“We just keep everything in perspective, know that nothing is guaranteed and you can’t take anything for granted at any second,” Pitts said. “In life, things can change in a second. We always talk and role play all of the time about different things happening and our team then has to make the best of it. We have to stay focused and we keep them pretty humble in practice, too. We have to continue to take care of our conditioning because this Is by far the best conditioned team I’ve ever coached.”
Sports Editor’s Note: The following box scores are from recent Arlee games:
Arlee 83, Plains 39
Arlee (3-0, 6-0)
Arlee 27 26 20 10 – 83
Plains 8 15 10 6 – 39
ARLEE – Phillip Malatare 10 0-0 25, Will Mesteth 9 1-4 23, Greg Whitesell 7 0-0 18, Lane Johnson 4 0-1 8, Isaac Fisher 4, Darshan Bolen 1 2-2 4, Billy Fisher 1.
PLAINS – Jay VonHeeder 12, Tanner Ovitt 8, Derick Curry 7, Kyle Weeks 6, Wyatt Weyers 4, Sinjin LaDeaux 2.
3FGs: A13-28 (Malatare 5-7, Mesteth 4-11, Whitesell 4-8). A32REB (Malatare 12, Johnson 10, I.Fisher 4, Mesteth 2, Bolen 2, Whitesell, B.Fisher). A13AST (Malatare 7, Johnson 2, Whitesell 2, Mesteth, Bolen). A15STL (Johnson 3, Mesteth 3, Malatare 2, Whitesell 2, Bolen 2, I.Fisher, Lane Schall, B.Fisher) A1BLK (I.Fisher). A11DEFL. (Th21Dec17)
Arlee 88, St. Regis 10
Arlee (2-0, 5-0)
Arlee 35 32 8 13 – 88
St. Regis 4 2 0 4 – 10
ARLEE – Will Mesteth 7 0-0 16, Isaac Fisher 5 6-8 16, Phillip Malatare 6 1-2 13, Lane Johnson 6 1-1 13, Cody Tanner 4 0-0 10, Greg Whitesell 5 0-0 10, Nate Coulson 2 0-0 5, Billy Fisher 1-2 3, Dar Bolen 2.
ST. REGIS – Nic Day 3, Andrew Sanford 2, Ryan Teeter 2, Zane Antos 3.
3FG: A5-17 (Mesteth 2-5, Tanner 2-3, Coulson 1-1). A33REB (I.Fisher 5, Malatare 5, Johnson 5, Coulson 5, Mesteth 3, Bolen 3, B.Fisher 3, Whitesell 2, Lane Schall, Tapit Haynes). A19AST (Malatare 6, Mesteth 3, Whitesell 3, Johnson 3, Tanner, B.Fisher, Coulson, Schall). A19STL (Mesteth 5, Johnson 4, Malatare 3, Bolen 3, Tanner 2, Whitesell, I.Fisher, B.Fisher, Schall). A5BLK (I.Fisher 3, Malatare, Coulson). A17DEFL (Mesteth 4, I.Fisher 4, Johnson 4). (Tu19Dec17)