Wildcats win at Whitefish, fall at home to Browning

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Tucker Salmonsen flies past Whitefish defenders for a shot attempt Thursday. The Wildcats downed the Bulldogs, 53-43. (Jeremy Weber photo)

The Wildcats will be entering this weekend’s district tournament as the No. 4 seed after picking up a win at Whitefish last week.

The Cats picked up their fourth conference win with a 53-43 win against the Bulldogs Thursday but fell at home to conference-leading Browning Saturday.

Both teams struggled to find the hoop in the opening quarter at Whitefish Thursday as the Bulldogs took a slim 8-6 lead after eight minutes of play.

The Cats went up by as many as nine in the second quarter but settled for a 24-19 advantage at the half.

A three by Lowell Panasuk and a steal and layup by Austin Green pushed the Cat lead back to 10 early in the the third quarter before Columbia Falls took its largest lead of the game on a hustle play by Quintin Schriver, who dove on the floor to grab a loose ball and found Matt Morrison under the basket for an easy hoop.

The Bulldogs scored the next 12 points of the contest to tie the score at 38-38 with 5:22 to play in the game, but the Cats responded with a 15-5 run to close out the game to earn a 10-point victory.

“They made their run to tie it, but we kept our composure and did what we needed to do to get the win,” head coach Chris Finberg said.

Morrison led the Cats with 14 points, 19 rebounds and two blocked shots in the win while Schriver finished with 11 points, seven rebounds and four assists.

The Cats were able to keep pace with Browning for three quarters at home Saturday before eventually falling to the conference-leading Indians, 61-36.

The Cats turned the ball over only 15 times against the relentless pressure defense from the Indians, but suffered through another tough shooting night, hitting just 13 of their 54 shots.

“Fifteen turnovers against a team like that, we will take that. We just couldn’t put the ball in the hoop,” Finberg said.

Drew Morgan led the Wildcat effort with 11 points and eight rebounds while Morrison added 10 points.

The Cats will enter the district basketball tournament in Ronan as the fourth seed, where they will face No. 5 Ronan at 5 p.m. Thursday. With a win, they would face top-seeded Browning Friday at 5 p.m. A loss would have the Cats not playing again until Saturday at 11 a.m. against the loser of Polson and Libby or Whitefish.

Columbia Falls 6 18 14 15 — 53

Whitefish 8 11 15 9 — 43

COLUMBIA FALLS — Austin Green 8, Drew Morgan 9, Lowell Panasuk 8, Billy Barrett 3, Quintin Schriver 11, Matt Morrison 14.

WHITEFISH — Jack Schwaiger 4, Brendyn Peacock 3, Ryan Kemm 9, Lee Walburn 23, Dillon Botner 4.

Browning 17 10 11 23 – 61

Columbia Falls 7 14 6 9 – 36

BROWNING – Brandon Aims Back 10, Justin Burd 2, James Gilham 6, Bull Child Latrell 2, Derek Loring 12, Deion Mad Plume 4, Ethan Running Crane 4, CJ Smith 2, Nano Stiffarm 7, Tyree Whitcomb 12.

COLUMBIA FALLS - Billy Barrett 2, Logan Bechtel 6, Drew Morgan 11, Matthew Morrison 10, Tucker Salmonsen 4, Quintin Schriver 3.

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