The Metra figures to be full — or close to it — from start to finish this weekend.
Four teams who traditionally bring thousands of fans with them will take the floor in Thursday afternoon's opening session of the State C boys basketball tournament.
Three of the four are Native American teams — Plenty Coups, Brockton and Heart Butte — and all three are nicknamed the Warriors. Plenty Coups (17-8) will face Manhattan Christian (18-3) in the tourney opener at 12:30 p.m., followed by Brockton (18-5) vs. Heart Butte (15-9) at 2 p.m.
"Three Indian schools in the first session … the Metra will be full," said Heart Butte coach Joe Arrowtop. "We'll be missing some of our fans because Browning is in the State A, but we'll have a lot of fans there. All four of those teams (in the afternoon session) will have a lot of fans there."
Brockton coach Brent Nygard agreed that empty seats might be tough to find Thursday afternoon.
"I saw the seating chart for Metra. They have all three Indian schools on the same side," said Nygard. "That side will be full and it will be loud, especially for our game."
Other first-round games Thursday include Roberts (24-0) vs. Sheridan (22-1) at 6:30 p.m. and Lambert (19-5) vs. Judith Gap (24-1) at 8 p.m.
Indian schools have won the last three State C titles. Hays-Lodgepole defeated Heart Butte in last year's championship game, and Heart Butte won back-to-back titles in 2000 and 2001.
Heart Butte does not have many familiar names on this year's team — Arrowtop is in his first year as head coach and his starting lineup features four sophomores. But the team has steadily improved all season, capped by its 56-42 win over previously unbeaten Judith Gap in the Northern C divisional championship.
"We have the worst record in the tournament," said Arrowtop, who has been a coach in the Heart Butte junior high and high school programs for the past 10 years. "But we're probably playing as well as anybody right now.
"We've cut down on our turnovers and our fouls and we're playing real solid defense. There were eight or nine teams in the Northern division this year that were good enough to go to state … for us to come out of there on top shows that we are playing very well right now."
Brockton, along with Heart Butte, is one of five teams back from last year's State C. Brockton is also peaking at the right time — the Warriors had a 12-game win streak snapped Saturday when Lambert beat them at the buzzer (64-62) in the Eastern C divisional championship.
Nygard said the experience of last year's tournament — Brockton was eliminated by Manhattan Christian in a Saturday morning game — will be big for his players.
"Last year we were like a lot of teams who haven't been there in a while … we were kind of in awe of the whole thing," said Nygard. "Our goal last year was just to get there, and we did. This year our goal is to be playing Saturday night."
Brockton is led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Tyson Bauer, who scored 61 points in a game this season and scored 33 in Saturday's loss to Lambert.
Another big-time scorer in this year's tournament is Plenty Coups' Garren Goes Ahead. The 5-foot-11 senior guard, who scored 29 points in Monday's Southern C challenge win over Ekalaka, has led Plenty Coups to its third straight State C appearance.
"It should be a fun tournament," said Nygard. "A lot of the teams have real good traditions and they know how to win. And with three Indian schools in there, there should be plenty of points put up on the scoreboard."