PLAINS — Plains senior Treydon Brouillette had no idea he had just won the game for the Horsemen against conference rival Noxon.
The 5-foot-11 guard hustled down the court to play defense, thinking there was still time on the clock after he made the go-ahead layup on Friday. By the time he heard the buzzer go off and saw the scoreboard displaying Plains’ 50-48 win, he was being mobbed by his teammates.
The emotions came flooding in as he and his fellow seniors capped their final home game with a dramatic comeback victory, one that secured the Western 14-C crown, the first outright conference title for 10th-ranked Plains since 2009 when it played in Class B.
“I was over the moon at that point,” Brouillette said after scoring 11 points. “The whole night was emotional, but that just really did it. Looking up and seeing zeroes sent me over the edge. My boys, they’re always on my side in a game to pick me up. It was a great moment with my teammates.”
Plains needed every point it got during its second-half rally while going up against Noxon’s Rylan Weltz, a versatile 6-foot-5 forward who scored 30 points. The Horsemen held him to 11 in the second half as they outscored Noxon 32-24 by attacking the rim more after settling for 3-pointers and not going for offensive rebounds, which put them in a 24-18 halftime deficit.
Junior guard Kade Pardee sparked the Horsemen out of the break, scoring 11 of his team-high 21 in the second half. He had nine of those in the third quarter, including a pair of free throws to give the Horsemen their first lead, 28-26, after trailing by as many as eight in the first half.
The teams traded a couple baskets, and Plains held the lead until Noxon tied the game at 46-46 and 48-48. After a timeout with 26.8 seconds left, Plains ran down the clock, Brouillette dished off to Pardee, who drove the left baseline and stopped on a dime to shoot a jumper. Brouillette raced in from the left wing of the 3-point line, wasn't boxed out, grabbed the shot that fell short and laid in the ball high off the backboard.
“Treydon and Kade are my rebounders and scorers, so I was surprised he’d go find the ball,” said second-year Plains coach Tyrel Allen, who played for the Horsemen in the 1990s, making it to the state tournament his senior year. “That’s the way he plays basketball. We hadn’t been going after offensive rebounds early in the game. We needed that one.”
With the win, Plains becomes the first 14-C champ other than Arlee since 2014. The Warriors won five consecutive league titles — they tied with Plains in 2017 but won the tiebreaker — and two state championships during that stretch before moving up to Class B this season.
Plains (14-3, 9-0) has dominated on its way to the league title, going 13-1 against Class C teams. Its lone loss was a 3-point home defeat against Seeley-Swan, the leader of the 13-C heading into Friday.
The Horsemen came into Friday scoring 65.6 points per game in conference play and allowing just 44.4, an average margin of victory of 21.2 points. That’s despite switching from a three-guard lineup to a four-guard lineup when one of its starting forwards got injured in late January.
While the win Friday was one to savor in the moment, Plains knows it needs to play better with the district tournament beginning next week in Ronan.
“I felt like the win was still a loss,” Allen said. “I think we lucked out. I felt their team deserved to win because they played better than we did.”
Brouillette shared a similar sentiment: “We feel that that’s kind of a wake-up call. We have the team to beat anybody, but if we don’t play like it, we’re not going to beat anybody. We just got to bring it every night trying to go to state.”
For Noxon, it was quite the turnaround from their previous game against Plains on Jan. 17, a 59-18 home loss. The Red Devils (10-7, 5-5) have been improving their ball handling and passing against the pressure defense in that stretch as they moved up to third in the league.
For Noxon, playing the conference winner close despite losing could provide some added intrigue to the district tournament, where only the top two teams qualify for divisionals.
“I felt like our boys played hard enough to win,” Noxon coach Ryan Weltz said. “The things it’s going to do for us is give us a lot of confidence heading into the tournament because now they know they can beat them. From where we started, to where we are now, the boys have gained a bunch of confidence, and this game gave them even a little bit more.”