Ed West: Mighty again, Melstone eyes State C berth

2009-01-28T23:00:00Z Ed West: Mighty again, Melstone eyes State C berth The Billings Gazette
January 28, 2009 11:00 pm

The Melstone Broncs have played in two State C boys basketball tournaments, and both were at MetraPark Arena.

The arena has changed its name to Rimrock Auto Arena, but the Broncs wouldn't mind making a return visit in March when the State C returns to Billings.

Melstone's last trip was memorable. The Broncs outlasted Gardiner in a fantastic championship game that went into overtime. Kale Eike scored 36 points and Adam Weisz had 34 in Melstone's 83-78 triumph, which was the first state title for the school.

Coach Jason Grebe's team is rolling along with an 11-0 record and is ranked No. 2 in this week's Associated Press poll.

"We have six seniors, who were freshmen in '06, and three of them played a lot that year," Grebe said. "We were 13-8 and 16-5 the last two years. We knew we would have a pretty good squad this year."

Tyler Wilson, a 6-foot-1 guard, was an all-state selection last year, and 6-4 guard-forward Garrett Balock and 6-3 post Aaron Nelson were all-conference choices. Wilson averages 21 points a game, Nelson carries a 15-point average, and Balock is scoring at a 13-points-per-game clip. Shelan Cooke, a 6-1 forward, is also averaging in double figures, at 12 points a game.

Justin Brewer, Colton Allen and junior Andy Kicker have all been solid contributors for the Broncs.

That balance is the biggest difference between this team and the championship outfit.

"I think it's quite a bit different team," Grebe said. "We have more balance, and our kids are really playing well together.

Eike and Weisz "were so good whatever teams did they had trouble. Our other guys played their roles."

The Broncs are winning by an average of nearly 28 points a game. An improved defense is a big reason.

"We're holding people to about 35 a game," Grebe said. "That's our big thing. That drives a lot of our offense. We mix it up" defensively.

Melstone has had a couple of close games, winning at Winnett-Grass Range 51-46 last weekend and beating District 4C rival Wibaux 59-51 on Jan. 3.

The Broncs will have to contend with Wibaux in the district tournament, and Grebe knows that navigating through that tourney and a divisional tournament can be treacherous, even for very good teams. Grebe thinks his '05 team was probably better than the championship club, but that group never made it to state.

"I thought the '05 team was deeper, bigger and had better shooters," Grebe said. "But that team lost in the semifinal round of the divisional and stayed home."

Grebe likes what he's seen of his current bunch.

"I think they've grown. We played 40 to 50 games this summer," he said. "We played West, Laurel, Central and Shepherd. Those are good teams. We handle pressure better. Last year we would turn the ball over a lot and we weren't making good decisions."

If the Broncs can keep playing that way, another state tournament trip is certainly possible, no matter the name of the arena.

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