Kats headed back to state tournament after third place finish at Divisionals
By JEREMY WEBER
Hungry Horse News
The Wildkats will once again be making the trip to the Class A State Basketball Tournament after going 3-1 and finishing third at the Western Divisional Tournament in Butte over the weekend.
The Kats overcame an opening round loss to eventual tournament champion Butte Central to finish third with wins over Ronan, Dillon and Hamilton.
According to head coach Cary Finberg, the Kats had a rough time preparing for the tournament as illness left the team severely shorthanded at practice the previous week, with one practice only involving four players.
“We left Wednesday not knowing who was going to be playing and was not,” Finberg said. “Overall, I am fairly happy with how we performed, though I am disappointed that we let that first one slip away from us. We did what we needed to do though and punched our ticket to state.”
Senior guard Dani Douglas was named to the All-Tournament first team after averaging 11.5 point and 3.25 assists per game, while Trista Cowan earned second team honors and Ryley Kehr and Hannah Gedlaman were Honorable Mention selections.
Butte Central 46
Columbia Falls 42
The Kats held a nine-point lead heading into the fourth quarter against Butte Central in the opening round Thursday but saw the game slip away as the Maroons outscored the Kats 21-8 in the fourth quarter.
“For us to defend the way we did and then lose a nine-point lead, that was rough,” Finberg said. “We had silly fouls in the first half that gave them free throws and then those fouls added up in the second half and we had two players foul out.”
Nine of Butte Central’s 20 first-half points came from the foul line, but the Kats held a 21-20 advantage at the break.
The Kat lead grew to nine after three quarters, but the Maroons turned up the pressure in the final eight minutes. Douglas was forced to the bench after picking up her fifth foul with 4:30 to play as the Maroons continued to use Wildkat turnovers to get easy baskets.
Columbia Falls trailed 44-42 with 36 seconds to play, but the Kats forced a 10-second call to get the ball back. The Kats wound up turning the ball back over to the Maroons in the closing seconds as Butte Central held on for the win.
“In the last 10 minutes of the game, we had 13 turnovers and they had one,” Finberg said. “That was basically the difference in the game.”
Cowan, who fouled out late in the contest, led the Kats with 15 points and eight rebounds in the loss while Kehr added 11 points and 12 boards.
Columbia Falls 71
The Kats bounced back with a win in their first loser-out game Friday as they took down Ronan, 71-59. A team the Wildkats had held to just 18 points one week prior, Finberg said his team came into the contest somewhat fatigued.
“It was a typical loser-out game. Both teams seemed a little tired and down after losing and it turned into an offensive battle,” he said.
The game became a shootout between point guards as Douglas led the Kats with 25 points while Micalann McCrea answered with 25 for the Maidens.
The Kats jumped out to a 22-14 lead after one quarter and led 34-28 at the half.
The Maidens were able to cut the Wildkat lead to just two in the the third quarter, but the Kats closed out the period with a 19-4 run that put the game out of reach for Ronan.
Along with her 25 points, Douglas added five assists and five steals in the win while Cowan had 17 points and 11 rebounds, Kehr added 14 points and seven boards and Gedlaman finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds.
Columbia Falls 60
The Kats looked like a force of nature in the opening half against Dillon Saturday morning as Columbia Falls scored the first 29 points of the contest en route to a 42-point victory.
“For whatever reason, we came out knowing our season was on the line and we shot lights out in the opening half,” Finberg said.
Columbia Falls led 23-0 after one quarter of play and added six more points in the second quarter before Dillon finally got on the scoreboard with a pair of free throws with 4:54 to play in the half. Dillon’s only field goal of the opening half came on a three with 1:42 left and the Kats led 38-5 at the break.
The lead continued to grow in the third quarter and Finberg emptied his bench with 3:50 to play in the third quarter. Over the final 11:50 of the game, the Wildkat subs outscored Dillon 14-6.
“I was impressed with two things from this game,” Finberg said. “First, we got off to a great start and then when we put in our freshmen and sophomores, the lead continued to grow. That is great for next year as we need all the experience we can get.”
Eleven of the 12 Kats players scored in the contest, led by Cowan’s 11 points and seven rebounds. Gedlaman and Kehr each scored nine.
Columbia Falls 43
Dillon 42 (OT)
The Kats fought off exhaustion to pick up a win the tournament consolation game Saturday afternoon as they held off a pesky Hamilton squad to earn the third-place trophy.
Up by as many as nine in the second quarter, the Kats had to hold off a late Lady Bronc charge to get the win in overtime in a game with a bizarre ending.
The Kats led by three with 11.5 seconds to play in the extra period, and elected to let the Broncs score with four seconds to play so that time would run out before the ball had to be placed inbounds. An inadvertent whistle wrecked those plans and forced a lengthy delay as the officials attempted to determine procedure in such a situation. In the end, the Kats were forced to inbound the ball with two seconds to play and held on to earn a one-point win.
Douglas and Gedlaman each scored 11 for the Kats in the win while Cowan added nine points and nine rebounds and Kehr had eight points and six boards.
The Kats will now head to Great Falls for the Class A State Tournament March 8-10, where they will face Hardin in the opening round at 6:30 p.m. March 8.
Butte Central 4 16 5 21 - 46
Columbia Falls 9 12 13 8 - 42
BUTTE CENTRAL – Kloie Thatcher 14, Olivia Bolton 6, Megan Michelotti 11, Tricia Joyce 15.
COLUMBIA FALLS – Dani Douglas 4, Hannah Gedlaman 6, Ryley Kehr 11, Trista Cowan 15, Josie Windauer 3, Diana Vasquez 3.
Columbia Falls 22 12 23 13 - 71
Ronan 14 14 12 19 - 59
COLUMBIA FALLS – Dani Douglas 25, Hannah Gedlaman 12, Ryley Kehr 14, Trista Cowan 17, Josie Windauer 3.
RONAN – Micalann McCrea 25, Gabby Wirz 2, Tianna Ulutoa 11, Jaelyn Askan 8, Kianna Finley 8, Kieauna DeRoche 3, Rhiley Big Beaver 2.
Columbia Falls 23 15 11 11 - 60
Dillon 0 5 9 4 – 18
COLUMBIA FALLS – Dani Douglas 6, Savannah Ellis 5, Hannah Gedlaman 9, Ryley Kehr 9, Trista Cowan 11, LaKia Hill 3, Peyton Rhodes 2, Hannah Schweikert 5, Diana Vasquez 5, Graceanne Sevesind 3, Madysen Hoerner 2.
DILLON – Kyndall Petersen 4, Brynley Fitzgerald 12, Josey Jones 2.
Hamilton 8 9 9 12 4 - 42
Columbia Falls 8 12 9 9 5 - 43
HAMILTON – Tessa Della Silva 7, Tristan Searle 1, Mallory McGill 10, Cariann Kunkel 18, Lauren Ryter 4, Jordan Taggart 2.
COLUMBIA FALLS – Dani Douglas 11, Hannah Gedlaman 11, Ryley Kehr 8, Trista Cowan 9, LaKia Hill 3, Josie Windauer 1.