Wildkats Take Third

Columbia Falls wins three straight, places at state tournament for fifth straight year

There’s no such thing as rebuilding in Columbia Falls.

The Wildkats (23-5) won three consecutive games in the consolation bracket after a first-round loss to eventual state runner-up Hardin to finish third at the Class A state tournament in Great Falls. Columbia Falls has placed in the top three of the state tournament each of the last five years.

“I thought overall the girls responded really well to the way we played that first game,” coach Cary Finberg said. “For them to come back and finish the season and represent themselves that way was very impressive.”

Columbia Falls earned its trophy with a 52-36 win over Hamilton on March 10 in the third-place game. Senior Dani Douglas, the only returning starter from last year’s state title-winning team, scored 20 points in the victory. The Wildkats advanced to the third-place game by defeating Browning 65-47 earlier the same day, avenging a pair of late-season losses to the Indians. Columbia Falls bested Glendive 57-44 on Friday.

Finberg led Columbia Falls’ boys program for 19 years, winning five state titles, before stepping down from that job in 2015. He has been the head coach of the Wildkats since 2011 and credited his players’ offseason work for their continued success.

“We’ve got a lot of kids that put a lot of time in, kids that work hard,” he said. “We’ve had great kids through the years … It’s just a matter now of trying to keep it going another year.”