Wildcats down Chiefs in thriller

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COLUMBIA FALLS — It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the Columbia Falls Wildcats got the job done, beating the Ronan Chiefs 58-55 in overtime on Tuesday in a Northwest A boys basketball clash.

Four different players sank free throws in overtime and it was Dillon Shipp who sealed the win by making one of his tries at the line with 5 seconds remaining.

Shipp scored 11 points, including two three-point shots.

“Tight game on both sides,” Columbia Falls coach Chris Finberg said. “I thought Ronan shot very well. We were able to hit some free throws at the end and that got us the win.”

The Wildcats had been hungry for their first Northwest A conference victory and improve to 2-11 overall and 1-5 in conference play.

Columbia Falls never opened up a lead greater than five points and led 42-37 after three quarters. Four different Ronan shooters scored a total of 11 timely three-pointers that helped the Chiefs (3-9, 2-5) put the pressure on the Wildcats.

Jacob Gatch led Ronan with four treys and 17 points. Gatch scored a three that gave Ronan a 45-44 lead, its first of the game, late in the fourth. It was his free throw that tied the game 47-all and sent it to overtime.

“Every time I thought we had a lead that would possibly end it, they’d come down and hit a three,” Finberg said. “Numerous times it felt like we were up 5 or 4 and if we could get a stop and a rebound, we’d handle the game. And every time that happened they’d hit a big shot and keep themselves in it.”

The Wildcats led 36-32 at the half thanks to two consecutive three-point buckets by Danny Henjum, who tallied 7 points. Drew Morgan, who shared the scoring lead of 15 points with Sam Hovde, sank both of his shots at the charity stripe in overtime. Hovde went 3 for 4 at the line, including one in OT. Morgan’s late trey in the fourth gave the Wildcats a 47-44 lead.

Foul trouble prevented the Wildcats from changing their defensive strategy to counteract Ronan’s shooters, Finberg said. He thought it was best to stick with the half-court defense, though Finberg would have liked to press Ronan a little more. It worked for them this time, but Finberg said he’d like to see “our defense to lead to some offense” going forward.

This season has been trying for the Wildcats, but even though things haven’t been going their way, there’s still a lot to look forward to, especially come tournament time, Finberg said.

“We’re not worried about our record,” Finberg said. “We talk about, in high school basketball, at the end of the season, everyone’s on an even playing field come tournament time. That’s where we’re focused on. We’re focused on improving every practice, every game and we’re not worried about what our win-loss record is right now. We would like it to be better, no doubt about it but our focus is on getting better and getting ready for the end of the season.”

Ronan 10 13 9 15 8 — 55

Columbia Falls 12 14 10 11 11 — 58

RONAN — Randy Finley 6, Dallas Durheim 14, Leonard Burke 9, Jacob Gatch 17, Aidan Birdinground 3, Zarec Couture 4, Tremayne Bush 2.

COLUMBIA FALLS — Dillon Wanner 7, Drew Morgan 15, Dillon Shipp 11, Danny Henjum 7, William Dyon 3, Sam Hovde 15.

Columbia Falls 70, Ronan 33

RONAN — Columbia Falls started fast and finished strong in beating Ronan in a Northwest A conference contest.

Columbia Falls (12-1, 5-1) jumped in front 16-8 after the first period and outscored Ronan (5-8, 2-5) 17-4 in the fourth quarter to win by 37 points.

Ryley Kehr led the Columbia Falls scoring parade with 23 points. Josie Windauer added 14 and Trista Cowan netted 10.

Jaylea Lunceford topped Ronan with 16.

Columbia Falls has a nonconference test on Saturday at Corvallis.

Ronan has a league contest on Friday at home versus Polson.

Columbia Falls 16 18 19 17 — 70

Ronan 8 10 11 4 — 33

Ronan — Aislyn Baker 3, Tiana Ulutoa 4, Jaylea Lunceford 16, Ari Burke 1, Regan Clairmont 3, Madeline McCrea 2, Jaeleigh Gatch 4.

Columbia Falls — Savvy Ellis 7, Lakia Hill 3, Josie Windauer 14, Ryley Kehr 23, Graceanne Sevesind 1, Trista Cowan 10, Maddie Robison 6, Grace Gedlaman 2, Lauren Falkner 2, Madysen Hoerner 2.

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