|A jubilant Blackhawk team with the first place trophy. Front row, from left, Chris Auchenbach, Cameron Gamache, Bobby Clark, Justin Taylor, Leland Anders. Back row, from left, Scott Taylor, Arrow Hoehn (behind Clark), Bryan Barthelmess (partially hidden between Clark and Taylor), Rich Copenhaver, Kaleb Johnson, and Brian Gallea.|
by Gary Noland
Seeley Swan Pathfinder
March 4, 1999
Disbelief reined for a split second Saturday night.
Reality was quick on the rebound, though, and Loyola players felt that sinking feeling that comes with losing when you're supposed to win.
Seeley-Swan players and fans exploded in loud celebration, hoping that what they saw in the final three seconds of play had actually happened. And the more they yelled, the more real it became.
In a hard-fought contest that appeared headed into overtime with a 63-63 tie, Bobby Clark opted for a safe pass inbounds to Cameron Gamache in the corner. Gamache, at 3-point range, lofted his shot...the buzzer sounded...and the ball fell softly through the net without even brushing the rim, dashing Loyola's hopes for overtime, 66-63.
It was the second three-pointer in the final seconds, with the first by Loyola's Eddie Stack to tie the game at 63 all with seven seconds left.
The final seconds of play in the District 5-B championship game were packed with enough tension to fill a season, and an ending that defied the odds as the tournament's last-seeded team turned into a solid championship team, proving themselves not just once, but in three straight games, laying low the tournament's first, second and third-seeded teams.
The last one, though, was the big one, with heavily favored Loyola (16-3) looking to overpower Seeley-Swan (9-11), the tournament underdog, for its third straight district title.
For most of the game, Loyola appeared to have the edge, even though the Hawks rallied to a one-point, first quarter lead 12-11.
By halftime, the Hawks were down by ten.
Early in the third period, Loyola lengthened that lead to 13 points before the Hawks, rallying behind a string of baskets by Justin Taylor, turned the tide. But it wasn't until midway through the fourth period that the Hawks, on a three-pointer by Clark, pulled ahead by a point, then more as they pulled ahead by seven, 62-55, with less than a minute to play. It looked in the bag.
(At right in photo, Senior Blackhawk Chris Auchenbach goes up for a crucial two points against a frustrated Loyola defender in the championship game.)
But Loyola, determined not to be undone by the upstarts from Seeley Lake, used those final precious seconds to close the gap, tying it at 63-63 before Gamache's basket punctuated the game with certainty.
Gamache, a hero, was hoisted to the shoulders of a half dozen other Blackhawk heroes who scored in double figures or one point shy of thatGamache 13, Lelan Anders 11, Chris Auchenbach 10, Justin Taylor 10, Bobby Clark 9, and Kaleb Johnson 9. And, with all points counting, Bryan Barthelmess's four points made the difference in an extraordinary team effort.
Before Loyola, the Hawks downed second-seeded Deer Lodge in first-round action of the district tournament. The Hawks had lost twice to Deer Lodge during the regular season, but only by one point in a game a week before the tournament.
This time the Hawks, leading only by one point at halftime, pulled away in the third and fourth quarters to thump Deer Lodge by 19 points, 77-58, in their most lop-sided game of the tournament.
Kaleb Johnson led the Hawks with 22 points, but again there was strong balance in the offense with Chris Auchenbach adding 14, Lelan Anders 11, Bobby Clark 10, Cameron Gamache 9, Byain Barthelmess 5, Scott Taylor 4, and Justin Taylor 2.
With the known underdog now a proven threat, third-seeded Darby came out running and gunning in the first period of the semi-finals, throwing the Hawks only slightly off balance in the first period, when they held a 22-19 lead.
The Hawks managed a two-point halftime lead, 38-36, and the two teams struggled down to the final minutes before the Hawks, behind Justin Taylor's 10 fourth-quarter points, put it out of reach for Darby.
Darby, like every team the Hawks faced, had to contend with a formidable offense with the Hawks dropping baskets from anywhere on the floor from every shooter. Five players were in double figures. Kaleb Johnson led with 18, Bobby Clark 14, Chris Auchenbach 12, Justin Taylor 12, Scott Taylor 4, Bryan Barthelmess 1, and Lelan Anders 1.
The top four teams in the District 5-B Tournament Seeley-Swan, Loyola, Frenchtown and Darbyadvance to the Western B Divisional Tournament this weekend in Polson.
|The action was a little rought in the finals with Loyola. Here Blackhawk senior Lelan Anders is hauled down to the deck when he attempted a shot under the basket.|
|Senior Blackhawk Justin Taylor goes high for two of the 10 points he drilled in the fourth period in the Darby game.||Bobby Clark drives for two in a fast-paced semi-final game with Darby.|
The Blackhawks play St. Ignatius Thursday, March 4, in the first round of the Western B Divisional tournament at Polson. Game time is 12:30 p.m.