BUTTE — When Jadenc Archilta talks about basketball and his Lodge Grass teammates, it goes deeper than finding success on the court.
Lodge Grass defeated Rocky Boy 81-54 Friday, scoring 45 second-half points to break away from the Northern Stars in a game that ended up deciding a share of the Class B state championship, as the MHSA canceled the tournament in the middle of the Three Forks-Fairfield semifinal.
The sophomore was still a bit shaky as he talked about what the current Indians team feels like.
“When I say my teammates, I mean my brothers,” Archilta said.
Like the rest of the Lodge Grass squad, Archilta learned basketball at a young age on the Crow Reservation in Eastern Montana, but the sophomore says his ability actually game from a unique origin.
“I was about seven years old when I started playing basketball,” Archilta said. “I was riding horses and doing Indian relay which helped me with quickness. It came really well into basketball.”
Now, the Indians have earned a share of the state championship, coming on the 30th anniversary of the legendary Elvis Old Bull’s last state title with Lodge Grass in 1990.
However, it didn’t come easy.
To no surprise, the Indians and Northern Stars brought immense energy as both teams utilized the full-court press as their first line of defense, which translated to a total of 18 first-half turnovers.
Lodge Grass got the better of the high-octane contest, as Indians talismans Malachai Little Nest and Damon Gros Ventre each nabbed early steals for easy scores as Lodge Grass jumped out to a 9-2 lead.
Rocky Boy refused to be shaken, as the Northern Stars worked off senior Blake Cantrell to create. The junior totaled 10 first-half points, and set up two treys from sophomore Sean Gibson as Rocky Boy took a lead that was maintained for the majority of the second quarter.
Indians head coach Josh Stewart talked about what he told his squad after a wild first half.
“We knew it would be an up-and-down game,” Stewart said. “The crowd was electrifying and we knew that the tempo was going to be high early on. I told the boys, ‘It’s going to be charged, it’s going to be up-and-down, it’ll be their best.’”
However, a burst of six points from Ventre, who hit the break with 16 points, and fellow big man Jadenc Archilta saw the Indians snatch the lead from Rocky Boy as the first half came to a close at 36-33 for Lodge Grass.
Stewart gave his team one other piece of advice.
“It will start to turn if we stick to the defense and rebound.”
While the Northern Stars matched the Indians throughout the first half, Lodge Grass lived up to their coach’s advice by holding Rocky Boy to just seven third-quarter points, while putting up the highest scoring quarter of the game with 23 points.
Up by 19 and pushed on by passionate Lodge Grass fans, the Indians didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal as Stewarts’ team nearly bested their third-quarter total with 22 more points to ensure an emphatic 25-point victory to earn a spot in the final.
The Northern Stars were led the duo of Sean Gibson and Ben Crebs, who each finished with 15 points. Cantrell could not better his first-half total, and ended the game with 10.
Stewart complimented the Northern Stars for their play and wished them luck going forward, as the cancellation was not announced.
“Hats off to [Rocky Boy,]” Stewart said. “They’ve got a lot of heart, they fought and made it to the state semifinal. They give everything they got, and they’re not done either, I know they’re not done either. They still want to get third place, so good luck to those guys.”
Gros Ventre hit 13 open-field shots en route to a tournament-high 35 points. Little Nest followed with 12 points, and sophomore Ty Moccasin finished with 10.
The cancellation of the tournament means that both Rocky Boy and Lodge Grass’ tourneys are completed.