ARLEE — Charlo girls basketball coach Bret Thompson thought the Vikings’ best chance of upsetting conference-leading Arlee would be to grind out a defensive victory.
So of course Charlo came out shooting hot and made the game a higher scoring affair than he expected on Thursday.
But with the Vikings facing a fourth-quarter deficit, they combined the explosive scoring they showed early on with the defense Thompson knew they were capable of, closing on a 12-3 run to hand Arlee its first league loss, 51-43, and stay alive for a share of the District 14-C title.
“I just feel like we’re finally complete. I feel like we finally meshed together really well,” said Charlo senior Kaitlin Cox, who scored 16 points to tie for the game high and lead the senior class to its first win in Arlee's gym.
Cox made her first five 3-point attempts, the final one coming during the game-closing run. Teammate Carlee Fryberger, a sophomore, provided a presence inside the arc, scoring 16 points to go with her 10 rebounds and six steals.
Charlo, which has already lost two players to ACL injuries, improved to 16-1 overall, 10-1 in league play and can clinch a share of the conference crown if it beats Hot Springs on Friday. Arlee closed the regular season at 12-5 overall, 11-1 in conference play and will be either the outright league champ or the co-champ depending on the outcome of the Charlo-Hot Springs game.
“It’s one of those games the kids should be able to feed off of now,” Thompson said. “Next week (at districts), they should want even more. We still got to come out (Friday) and take care of business.”
Unlike their first meeting, in which Charlo was constantly playing catch-up in a 53-41 home loss in January, the Vikings closed the first quarter on an 11-0 run and led 19-11 thanks to sound passing and strong work on the boards. They built their lead to nine points, 22-13, and led 38-31 midway through the third quarter.
Arlee senior Alyssia Vanderburg, who tallied 16 points, got a silent home crowd back into the game when she scored a layup to start a 7-0 run that evened the score, 38-38, heading to the fourth quarter. Fellow senior Louetta Conko-Camel made a pair of free throws early in the fourth on her way to a 13-point performance, giving Arlee a 40-39 lead, its first since 11-8, with 5:11 to play.
Out of a timeout, Charlo went on a 7-0 run as Allie Delaney assisted to Destiny Manuel, who had 10 points, for back-to-back layups before Cox drained a corner 3-pointer off an inbounds pass. After Conko-Camel converted an and-1 to pull Arlee within 46-43 with 1:04 left, Charlo made three of five free throws and scored on an offensive rebound to create the final margin.
“This team’s done a good job with adversity off the court and in games,” Thompson said. “I think they can keep doing it. They’re a good group that’s fun to coach.”
Warriors 64, Charlo 53
Arlee completed a perfect regular season conference record and clinched the District 14-C title with a 64-53 win over Charlo on senior night.
Isaac Fisher paced Arlee with 17 points, Lane Johnson added 14 and Greg Whitesell chipped in 11. The Warriors (17-1, 12-0) led by six points at the half and stretched that to 13 after three quarters.
Landers Smith scored 20 points to lead Charlo, which dropped to 14-3, 9-2. Connor Koenig added 16 points and Nate Delaney had 12.