Wildkats secure conference lead, down undefeated Hamilton

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  • Hannah Gedlaman takes the ball to the hoop for two of her career-high 26 points against Browning Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 1

    Wildkats LaKia Hill (left) and Josie Windauer attempt to steal the ball from a Browning player Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 2

    Ryley Kehr goes in for two in the Wildkats’ home win over Browning Thursday. Kehr scored 13 in the victory. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 3

    Hannah Gedlaman takes the ball to the hoop for two of her career-high 26 points against Browning Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 4

    Wildkats LaKia Hill (left) and Josie Windauer attempt to steal the ball from a Browning player Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 5

    Ryley Kehr goes in for two in the Wildkats’ home win over Browning Thursday. Kehr scored 13 in the victory. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • Hannah Gedlaman takes the ball to the hoop for two of her career-high 26 points against Browning Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 1

    Wildkats LaKia Hill (left) and Josie Windauer attempt to steal the ball from a Browning player Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 2

    Ryley Kehr goes in for two in the Wildkats’ home win over Browning Thursday. Kehr scored 13 in the victory. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 3

    Hannah Gedlaman takes the ball to the hoop for two of her career-high 26 points against Browning Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 4

    Wildkats LaKia Hill (left) and Josie Windauer attempt to steal the ball from a Browning player Thursday. (Jeremy Weber photo)

  • 5

    Ryley Kehr goes in for two in the Wildkats’ home win over Browning Thursday. Kehr scored 13 in the victory. (Jeremy Weber photo)

The Wildkats secured their hold on the Northwest Conference and all of Class A last week as they took down Browning and Hamilton.

Browning came into Thursday’s contest in Columbia Falls unbeaten in conference play, but the Kats held off the scrappy Lady Indian squad for a 70-65 victory.

The Kats were on the road at Hamilton Saturday for a matchup of the two top-ranked teams in Class A. The No. 2 Lady Broncs came into the game 12-0 on the season, but the Kats handed them their first loss of the season, 46-33.

“It really shows the character of this group that we stuck with what we wanted to do and didn’t panic when we were down in both of those games,” head coach Cary Finberg said. “It was great to see us show the poise that we did in those situations.”

Led by Hannah Gedlaman’s career-high 26 points, the Wildkats survived a close battle with Browning Thursday. The Lady Indians scored the first five points of the game and led by as many as seven in the opening quarter before the Kats offense got on track. Columbia Falls closed out the quarter on a 20-9 run and led Browning 22-16 after eight minutes.

The Kats continued to roll in the second quarter, outscoring Browning 18-10 to take a 40-26 halftime lead.

The Columbia Falls lead ballooned to as many as 17 points in the third quarter, but the Lady Indians began creeping their way back into the contest. Little-by-litte, Browning chipped away at the Wildkat lead, getting as close as six points with under three minutes to play in the quarter. A post up by Gedlaman and a steal and layup by Dani Douglas pushed the Wildkat lead back to 10 before Browning cut the advantage to 55-47 heading into the fourth quarter.

Gedlaman hit another jumper in the opening moments of the fourth, but Browning answered with nine straight points to cut the Columbia Falls lead to one with 5:40 to play.

Trista Cowan pushed the lead back to four when she made the first of two free throw attempts, missed the second but put back her own rebound to give the Kats a 60-56 advantage.

With the Kats up 65-63 with under a minute to play, Browning’s Walker RunningCrane took a three that would have given the Lady Indians the lead, but the ball came off the rim to Cowan, who was immediately fouled.

Cowan again made one of two, but Gedlaman pulled down the rebound on the missed free throw and put it through the hoop to give the Kats a 68-63 lead with 29 seconds to play. Taylor Jordan added a basket for Browning to cut the Kats lead to three with three seconds to play, but Douglas closed the door on the Browning comeback with a pair of free throws in the final seconds.

“They are a good team, but I like how we withstood their rally,” Finberg said about the win. “We learned a valuable lesson about not letting up against a good team.”

Along with her 26 points, Gedlaman added 17 rebounds (also a career-high), six steals and three assists.

Douglas finished with 15 points, seven steals, six assists and three rebounds and Ryley Kehr had 13 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, three steals and three blocked shots. Cowan, who battled foul trouble throughout the game, scored all six of her points and grabbed all six of her rebounds in the fourth quarter.

The Kats also got good play off the bench as LaKia Hill, Josie Windauer and Diana Vasquez combined to score eight points and pull in five rebounds.

“That was huge for us,” Finberg said. “That was probably the best game we have gotten from the bench this year and we needed it with Trista in foul trouble.”

The Wildkats fell behind 11-1 early at Hamilton Saturday but used a 45-15 run to down the Lady Broncs by double digits, 46-33.

The Kats trailed 11-6 after one quarter of play, but outscored Hamilton 15-7 in the second to take a 21-18 halftime lead.

The Wildkats continued to pour it on in the second half, outscoring Hamilton 25-15 over the final 16 minutes to pull away for the victory.

Cowan led all scorers with 14 points and added eight rebounds and two steals in the victory. Gedlaman finished with eight points and eight rebounds, Kehr had seven points and six rebounds and Douglas filled up the stat sheet with six points, five rebounds, five steals and five assists.

“We had slow starts in both games but we didn’t panic and we responded well,” Finberg said. “With as many road games as we have coming up, getting this win on the road means a lot for us looking forward.”

The Kats will be back in action Thursday as they host Corvallis before hosting Ronan for senior night Saturday. The team will be in Polson Tuesday.

Columbia Falls 6 15 14 11 — 46

Hamilton 11 7 8 7 — 33

COLUMBIA FALLS: Dani Douglas 6, LaKia Hill 5, Hannah Gedlaman 8, Josie Windauer 6, Ryley Kehr 7, Trista Cowan 14.

HAMILTON: Tessa Della Silva 7, Tristy Searle 4, Kara Nye 5, Mallory McGill 6, Cariann Kunkel 8, Lauren Ryter 3.

Browning 16 10 21 18 — 65

Columbia Falls 22 18 15 15 — 70

BROWNING — Walker Runningcrane 8, Lacy Goff 5, Olivia Hall 2, Taylor Jordan 9, Ronnal Jordan 12, Dulci Skunkcap 13, Tanika Guardipee 16.

COLUMBIA FALLS — Dani Douglas 15, Savvy Ellis 2, Lakia Hill 2, Hannah Gedlaman 26, Josie Windauer 2, Ryley Kehr 13, Diana Vasquez 4, Trista Cowan 6.

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