Panthers fight way into district tourney

Feb. 14—True Grit lives in Alberton.

Perhaps never before in Montana high school basketball has there been a team that stuck it out against impossible odds, and got better as the season wore on.

The Panthers closed out their 2023-24 regular season basketball campaign Saturday night, falling to Western 14C number two seed Charlo, 53-25.

Earlier in the week, they lost to Two Eagle River (TER), the conference's third place team, 60-43, Thursday at home. Sandwiched in between those defeats was a 61-42 road loss to Class B Troy.

But the Panthers will live to fight again, beginning this weekend at the 14C District tournament in Polson.

They will be the number six seed which would put them on a collision course with conference champion St. Regis.

But these guys toughed it out. They crossed the finish line. They showed improvement along the way when others may have thrown up their hands and called it a day.

Thursday on their home court, Alberton, a team with no seniors on the roster, outscored run and gun TER 11-10 after one quarter of play.

In the second quarter TER got on their horses and rode high, outscoring the home boys 23-9 to take a 33-20 lead at the half.

But as has been their never-say-die attitude all year, the Panthers regrouped and outscored TER 15-11 in the third quarter, setting up a 44-35 Eagles lead heading into the final quarter of play.

But it was not enough.

Jaxson Zimmerman scored a game-high 18 points for the Panthers, who also got 10 from sophomore forward Shea Fredette. Talen Voice led TER with 17 points, while Talon Addision added 11 and LaSean BigDay chipped in 10 for the Eagles.

Friday, the Panthers made the long bus trip to Troy (176 miles), only to fall behind 21-0 after one quarter of play. Bus lag?

Troy, a member of the Western 7B conference, doubled up on their first period score to take a 42-12 halftime lead.

But once again, the no surrender Panthers, behind the scoring and rebounding of Fredette, fought the Trojans to a 15-15 standstill in the third quarter. Heading into the fourth and final quarter of regulation, Alberton trailed Troy 57-27.

Then, once again, the Panthers showed they were not going run away and hide as they outscored Troy 15-4 in the final quarter to trim 11 points off the lead.

Fredette had 21 points for Alberton, second in game scoring to Troy's Carson Cox, who had 23 points for the Trojans.

From there it was back on the bus for the trip back to Alberton, with a game against 14C second place Charlo waiting for them the next day.

The Vikings big front line and senior experience propelled them to a 14-3 lead after one quarter of play, and a 31-11 halftime lead over the no-doubt road weary Panthers.

Charlo outscored the home team 22-14 in the second half as they coasted to victory and boosted their season record to 11-7. Alberton fell to 0-11 in league play and 1-17 on the year, but showed they have the grit to play varsity ball in their second year with a non-co-op varsity sports program.

Wesley Anderson, Charlo's 6-6 senior center, led the Vikings with 18 points, while Zimmerman was the top scorer for Alberton with 11 points.

Both teams now head to the District 14C tournament this Friday and Saturday (Feb 15-17), in Polson.

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