It was another tough week for the Wildcats on the basketball court as Columbia Falls dropped a non-conference matchup in Bigfork Thursday before dropping its conference opener in overtime to Ronan at home Friday.
A thrilling comeback fell just short for the Wildcats Friday as they fell to Ronan in overtime, 59-56.
According to Wildcat head coach Chris Finberg, free throws were difference in the contest.
“We missed some free throws, and that really hurt us. We missed nine and that was really the deciding factor when you look at the stats,” he said. “We were pretty even across the board, except at the foul line. It was a good game, but it would have been nice to get the win.”
The Wildcats made just 5-14 at the charity stripe while the Chiefs made 12 of their 17.
Columbia Falls trailed the Chiefs by nine at halftime, but opened the third quarter with a 9-3 run that cut the Ronan lead to 35-34 midway through the frame.
The Wildcats kept the game close over the next few minutes, but Anthony Camel banked a three off the glass from long range at the buzzer to give Ronan a 43-38 advantage heading into the fourth quarter.
The Chiefs went up by seven in the early stages of the fourth quarter, but the Wildcats would answer with threes from L.J. Panasuk and Drew Morgan. A pair of Panasuk free throws cut the Ronan lead to two with 59.5 seconds to play, but Camel answered with a pair of foul shots of his own to put Ronan ahead 52-48 with 46 seconds remaining.
Quintin Shriver knocked down a foul shot to cut the lead to three with 31 seconds remaining and Austin Green tied the game at 52-52 with a three with 19 seconds to play.
Camel had a chance to win it for Ronan in regulation, but his near halfcourt attempt bounced off the backboard and the rim, sending the game into overtime.
In the extra period, Panasuk gave the Wildcats a quick lead with a wing three on an assist from Matt Morrison, but Ronan answered with four straight points to go ahead, 56-55. Green tied the game with a free throw with 1:15 remaining, but Dallas Durheim put Ronan back in the lead with a foul shot with 25.1 seconds to play.
Green had a chance to put the Wildcats back on top, but his jumper grazed the right side of the rim and the rebound fell to the Chiefs. Camel added another pair of free throws in the closing seconds as Ronan held on for a 59-56 victory.
Shriver led the Wildcat scoring attack with 18 points in the loss while Panasuk added 11, Morgan scored 10 and Green added nine points and five rebounds. Morrison scored six points for the Cats and added 15 rebounds, eight assists, a steal and a blocked shot. Logan Betchel also added a basket for the Wildcats.
In action at Bigfork Thursday, the Wildcats struggled to find the basket in the opening quarter, shooting just 1-11 from the field, as they fell behind the Vikings, 14-2.
Columbia Falls rallied in the second quarter to cut the Bigfork lead to 20-13 at the half, but could not cut into the deficit in the second half as the Vikings earned a 52-37 victory.
“Bigfork is a very good team. They are one of the best teams in Class B for a reason. They have size, length, experience and they have shooters and athleticism. They’re a tough matchup for anyone,” Finberg said.
Morrison was the only Wildcat in double figures with 11 points and also added eight rebounds. Panasuk chipped in with nine points, Shriver scored five, Betchel added four, Green scored three, Billy Barrett and Jack Price each added two points and Jakob Beich had one.
The Wildcats will be off until Jan. 5, when they play at Libby, before hosting Polson Jan. 6.