The Wildkats earned another Class A state basketball trophy in Great Falls over the weekend as the team went 3-1 to finish third at this year’s event.
Columbia Falls overcame a first-round loss to eventual state runner-up Hardin and fought their way back through the consolation side of the bracket with wins over Glendive, Browning and Hamilton.
“For this team to make it back to Saturday night at the state tournament, it was a great accomplishment and it has been a great season,” head coach Cary Finberg said. “Our seniors led the way like they should and hopefully this will set us up for another great season next year.”
With the win over Hamilton, the Wildkats finish the season 23-5.
Columbia Falls 34
The Wildkats’ hopes of a back-to-back state basketball titles were dashed Thursday evening as Columbia Falls fell to Hardin in the opening round, 60-34.
The Kats shot just 30 percent in the contest and committed 14 turnovers while Hardin knocked down 40 percent of its shots and turned the ball over only 11 times.
Columbia Falls also struggled at the foul line, making just eight of 22 free throws.
The Kats had no players score in double figures and were led by freshman Hannah Schweikert’s seven points and nine rebounds off the bench. Dani Douglas, LaKia Hill and Trista Cowan each finished with five points and Hannah Gedlaman, Josie Windauer and Ryley Kehr each scored four.
The Bulldogs were led by Aiyanna Eraux’s 14 points while Karissa DuShane scored 13.
“We had good looks, we just couldn’t make them,” Finberg said about the loss. “Every time we cut into their lead, they would make a push and pull away again. It just wasn’t meant to be.”
Columbia Falls 57
The Wildkats bounced back from Thursday’s loss the following afternoon as they defeated Dawson County (Glendive) in a loser-out contest, 57-44 Friday.
The Kats did most of their damage in the opening quarter as Douglas poured in eight points to help Columbia Falls build a 22-6 advantage.
The Kats cooled off somewhat in the second quarter, scoring just 10 points to Glendive’s 13 as Columbia Falls took a 32-19 lead into the break.
Columbia Falls struggled to find the basket in the third quarter, making just two baskets in the frame, along with three free throws. Glendive took advantage of the Kat’s shooting woes, using an 8-2 run to cut the Wildcat lead to single digits heading into the fourth quarter, 39-31.
Cowan, Gedlaman and Kehr combined to help spark a 10-2 Wildkat run to open the fourth quarter that put Columbia Falls up 49-33 midway through the final frame. The Red Devils cut the Wildcat lead to 13 with 3:07 to play but four straight points from Hill put the Kats up 17 moments later and Columbia Falls pulled away for good.
The Wildkats finished the game shooting 51 percent from the field while also putting in 17 of their 25 free throws.
Douglas led the Kats in scoring in the win, putting in all 13 of her points in the opening half. Kehr and Gedlaman each added 12 points and Cowan finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Hill scored six, Savvy Ellis had two and Josie Windauer scored one.
Columbia Falls 65
Led by Gedlaman’s 22 points and Cowan’s 18 points and 16 rebounds, Columbia Falls earned a trip to the consolation game with a 65-47 win over Browning Saturday morning. It was the fourth meeting between the two teams this season.
The Kats opened the game with an 8-2 run and led 13-7 after one quarter of play. Browning cut the lead to one at 16-15 midway through the second quarter, but a three-point play by Cowan and a three Hill helped Columbia Falls grab a 26-21 lead at the half.
The third quarter belonged to Cowan as she scored nine of the Kats’ 17 points in the frame as Columbia Falls built a 43-31 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
Kehr opened the fourth quarter with a three, Gedlaman sank an inside shot and Douglas hit two free throws to push the Kat lead to 50-33 with seven minutes to play.
The Indians would never recover as the Kats cruised to an 18-point victory.
Along with Gedlaman’s 22 points and Cowan’s 18, Kehr added eight points for the Kats in the win, Douglas scored seven, Hill had three, Ellis, Windauer and Schweikert each scored two and Kiera Brown scored one.
Columbia Falls 52
The Wildkats finished the season with an emphatic win over Hamilton Saturday as Columbia Falls downed the Broncs 52-36.
The Kats were led by Douglas, who knocked down six three-point shots en route to 20 points. Gedlaman added 12 points and Cowan was also in double figures with 10.
Hamilton scored the first five points of the contest and led 8-3 before Columbia Falls closed out the first quarter with an 8-2 run to grab an 11-10 lead.
Douglas and Hill hit threes in the opening moments of the second quarter and Cowan added an inside shot as the Wildkat run extended to 16-2 to give the Kats a 19-10 advantage.
After Hamilton cut the lead to six with a three, Douglas responded with back-to-back deep threes to push the Wildkat lead to 25-13. Cowan added another basket in the closing moments of the half and the Kats led 27-16 at the break.
Gedlaman came alive for the Kats in the third quarter, scoring eight in the frame as Columbia Falls pushed its lead to 45-26 heading into the final eight minutes of play.
The Broncs could do little to cut into the Wildkat lead in the fourth quarter as Columbia Falls cruised to a 16-point victory to claim the third-place trophy.
Hill finished with six points for the Kats in the win while Ellis scored three and Kehr added one.