The Wildkats overcame a slow start in Polson Tuesday and survived a good test at Libby Thursday to stay undefeated in conference play with a pair of wins last week.
The Kats got off to a sluggish start at Polson Tuesday, but used a strong second half to pull away for a 57-35 victory.
Columbia Falls jumped out to a 14-4 lead after one quarter but were outscored by the Lady Pirates 10-5 in the second quarter as Polson cut the Wildkat lead to just one at the half, 15-14.
The Kats made just five of their shots in the opening half.
“Our defense was not forcing turnovers and our shots were not going down. We just didn’t come in ready to play the way we should,” head coach Cary Finberg said. “It was just not a really great effort on our part and it was one of the few times this season that we didn’t come out ready to play. I told them that this is the team we might be facing in the first round of the conference tournament. It is a bad habit for us to get into to not respect our opponent.”
The Kats turned things around in the third quarter, outscoring the Lady Pirates 28-11 to grab a 37-25 lead heading into the final eight minutes of play. Both teams scored 10 in the final quarter as they Kats picked up the win.
Hannah Gedlaman led the way for Columbia Falls in the win with 13 points, six rebounds, six steals and three assists while Ryley Kehr added 11 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists. Dani Douglas also scored in double figures with 10 points and added three rebounds and three assists.
Trista Cowan led the Kats with 14 rebound and added eight points as Columbia Falls out-rebounded Polson in the contest, 52-26.
The Kats again got good play from the bench as LaKia Hill had four points and five rebounds and Josie Windauer added four points and four boards.
The Kats shot 20-64 for the field in the contest, including just 4-14 from three-point range, but pulled in 19 offensive rebounds.
While the Kats may not have gotten off to the start Finberg may have wanted in the contest, he says some good might come out of it.
“When we play hard, we are capable of doing great things. If not, we can have tough games. It was an uncharacteristic game for this group. Maybe it will serve as a wake up call as we move into tournament time,” he said.
The Kats found themselves in a tough road battle Thursday as they took on the Lady Loggers in Libby.
Libby held a 10-6 lead after one quarter of play as the Kats stayed out of their usual full-court press but Columbia Falls came back in the second quarter to take a 14-13 lead at the half.
“Our effort was good, but Libby is a good team and we knew it would be a tough game. They had a good game plan for us and were able to slow us down a bit in the first half,” Finberg said. “We didn’t use our press much in the first half because we wanted to stay out of foul trouble on the road. We turned up the heat in the second half, though.”
The Wildkat defense proved to be too much for the Lady Loggers to handle in the second half as Columbia Falls outscored Libby 35-14 over the final 16 minutes to pull away for a 49-27 victory.
The Kats had only two players score in double figures in the contest as balanced scoring helped secure the win.
Gedlaman again led the way with 15 points and added nine rebounds, seven steals and four assists while Kehr finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Douglas scored nine and added five steals and three assists, Cowan scored four, Windauer, Hill and Savvy Ellis each had three points and Diana Vasquez added two.
“The bench again did a lot of things that really helped us get this win,” Finberg said. “They are really starting to figure out what we need them to do for us and I am very impressed with how they have been playing.”
The Kats will finish out the regular season this week as they play at rival Whitefish Thursday before traveling to Browning Saturday for a contest that will determine the top seed in next weekend’s conference tournament.
Columbia Falls 6 8 14 21 — 49
Libby 10 3 6 8 — 27
COLUMBIA FALLS — Dani Douglas 9, Savvy Ellis 3, Lakia Hill 3, Hannah Gedlaman 15, Josie Windauer 3, Ryley Kehr 10, Diana Vasquez 2, Trista Cowan 4.
LIBBY — Alli Collins 5, Samantha Miller 1, Jayden Winslow 14, Sammee Breeden 1, Shannon Reny 5, Brooklyn Rainer 1.
Columbia Falls 14 5 28 10 — 57
Polson 4 10 11 10 — 35
COLUMBIA FALLS: Hannah Gedlaman 13, Ryley Kehr 11, Dani Douglas 10, Trista Cowan 8, Savannah Ellis 4, Lakia Hill 4, Josie Windauer 4, Diana Vasquez 3.
POLSON: Quinn Motichka 13, Kaelyn Smith 9, Jaycee Frydenlund 7, Alex Pierre 5, Mahala Buffalo 1.