Arlee High School boys basketball coach Zanen Pitts doesn’t believe in the hype generated by the Warriors’ recent success.
The defending Class C state champions remain unbeaten and unchallenged. The fact the Warriors aren’t being challenged has Pitts worried because he knows February and March are when “giants fall,” he said.
All season, just like the 2016-2017 season, Pitts carries a list of the aspects of his team’s game he would like to see improve. As the season progresses, typically the list gets shorter and the execution gets tighter.
The number of improvements Pitts would like to see his team make before the postseason is in the double digits.
“There are 11 things now I would like to improve on and that is more than two handfuls,” Pitts said.
Pitts noted his young team still has a lot of progress to make during their final regular-season games against Charlo, Noxon and Two Eagle River. After those games, the Warriors, who have all but secured the No. 1 seed in their district, will battle to earn one of two spots in the Western 14-C District Feb. 15-17 at Joe McDonald Gym at Salish Kootenai College.
“We have a long way to go and a lot of improvement,” Pitts said. “The day we think we are complete is the day we are going to get beat. We can’t be complacent. Any time a team gets comfortable, they are asking to get knocked off. We have to stay humble and realize there is a lot of room for improvement. We have to continue to work on our basketball IQ, cut down on turnovers and improve our shooting percentage and shot selection. These are easy fixes and they need to be fixed.”
Arlee defeated Plains 80-39, a team that is second in the Western 14-C, has double-digit wins, and is considered by many across the media to be “state bound” and then proceeded to dismantle St. Regis 95-19.
In spite of dismantling Plains for the second consecutive time, Pitts said he anticipates the possible District Championship match up with the Horsemen to be “interesting.”
“Plains is really aggressive, they are good shooters and they are extremely well coached,” Pitts said. “They are always going to play hard and if we play them in the District Championship game, it’s going to be interesting.”
The Warriors defeated their last two opponents by a total of 41 and 76 points but Pitts still wants to remain focused on getting better.
“I am frustrated at how much better they can be and what they can do,” Pitts said. “I know how hard they work and the day I and my coaches get complacent, it could be a bad deal and we could run into a wreck. We have to play every game like it will be our last and enjoy it for everything it’s worth because you never know when it will be your last game. Nothing is guaranteed in life and our last game we play is hopefully the best game we’ve ever played.”
Pitts said he likes to run scared when he, his team and his coaching staff are competing for their coveted second consecutive Class C title and their third consecutive trip to the Class C title game.
“I think it was the way I was brought up,” Pitts admits. “I have to give our boys a lot of motivational talks. They have to understand the different roles they have to play in order for us to have a good chance to win.
Another reason for the intrinsic motivation Pitts and his coaching staff delivers on a daily basis is because in basketball in February and March, “nothing is guaranteed,” he said.
“We have to be able to contain our emotions and challenge our players to succeed in the right direction,” Pitts said. “We could have one moment off or miss one assignment and all of that could come back to haunt us. I want to make sure that we are on the same page and that we are all breathing the same way because something could happen and we need to have everyone on the same page or it is not going to work.”
Arlee 95, St. Regis 19
The Warriors easily tamed the visiting Tigers as Phillip Malatare turned in a strong triple-double combo of points, assists along with steals, while Lane Johnson notched a more conventional double-double that included rebounds. With his more than three dozen scoring outburst, Malatare vaulted over the 1400 point bar for varsity career scoring. Arlee (9-0, 15-0)
St. Regis 6 11 2 0 – 19
Arlee 45 25 16 9 – 95
ST. REGIS – Tanner Day 6, Ryan Teeter 4, Nic Day 3, James Booker 2, Ian Farris 2, Adam Ball 2.
ARLEE – Phillip Malatare 14 6-9 37, Will Mesteth 8 0-1 21, Lane Johnson 6 2-5 14, Darshan Bolen 2 4-5 8, Isaac Fisher 3 0-2 6, Lane Schall 2 1-3 5, David Haynes 1 0-2 2, Billy Fisher 2.
3FGs: A8-21 (Mesteth 5-14, P.Malatare 3-4). A28reb (Johnson 11, P.Malatare 7, I.Fisher 2, Schall 2, Nate Coulson 2, Mesteth, B.Fisher, Trey Malatare, Troy Tewawina). A21ast (P.Malatare 12, Mesteth 6, Johnson 2, Coulson). A30stl (P.Malatare 13, Mesteth 6, Johnson 4, Bolen 3, Schall 2, Coulson, T.Malatare). A8blk (Malatare 4, I.Fisher 3, Johnson). A20defl (Johnson 6, Malatare 4, Mesteth 3, Bolen 3, Schall 2). (Sa27Jan18)
Arlee 80, Plains 39
Malatare crested triple century (300) plateau for season scoring. Lane Johnson surpassed the double century (200) threshold for varsity career scoring.
Arlee (8-0, 14-0)
Plains 9 9 11 10 – 39
Arlee 21 15 18 26 – 80
PLAINS –Jay VonHeeder 12, Kyle Weeks 6, Tryden Brouillette 6, Sinjin LaDeaux 5, Matt McCracken 4, Derick Curry 4, Tanner Ovitt 2.
ARLEE – Philip Malatare 14 2-5 30, Lane Johnson 6 1-4 13, Will Mesteth 3 1-5 9, Darshan Bolen 3 0-0 8, Trey Malatare 8, Greg Whitesell 1 5-5 7, David Haynes 3, Isaac Fisher 2, Cody Tanner 0 0-2 0.
3FGs: A7-21 (T.Malatare 2-3, Bolen 2-3, Mesteth 2-9, Haynes 1-1). A37reb (I.Fisher 13, Johnson 7, P.Malatare 5, Bolen 4, Mesteth 3, B.Fisher 2, T.Malatare 2, Whitesell). A16ast (Malatare 9, Mesteth 5, Bolen, T.Malatare). A24stl (P.Malatare 10, Mesteth 5, I.Fisher 4, Bolen 3, Whitesell, T.Malatare). A6blk (P.Malatare 3, I.Fisher 2, T.Malatare). A18defl (Mesteth 5, P.Malatare 4, Johnson 4, Whitesell 2). (Th25Jan18)