Games between Columbia Falls and Whitefish are rarely boring. This one was no exception, except perhaps for the outcome. In what started out as a punishingly physical game, the Columbia Falls Wildcats used an old page out of this season’s playbook to pound the Whitefish Bulldogs Saturday night in Columbia Falls – an oppressive defense that denies every shot possible.
The scene for this game was set in the last contest in Whitefish, where the Wildcats won a very physical game earlier this month. This game didn’t start out much different. Barely two minutes into the game, Senior starter Chase Fairbank (10) was hit in the face during play, breaking his nose and putting him on the bench for the remainder of the game.
It wasn’t long before a similar play on the offensive end of the court put another Cat on the floor clutching his face. Whether the injury-causing plays were intentional or not, those two plays and the loss of their starting guard on Senior Night pumped up the Wildcats, not to mention the crowd. C-Falls coach Finberg got little solace from officials after these two plays, but he wasn’t done chatting with officials as the following play unfolded moments later.
As Whitefish’s Shawn Watterud (14) drove the lane for a shot, defenders Grant Getts (44) and Mitchell Wassam (34) collapsed on Watterud from opposite sides. See photos below.
Watterud ended up on the floor. Officials called the shooting foul intentional, giving Watterud four shots from the line and sending Coach Cary Finberg into orbit.
Below, Finberg gives the refs a piece of his mind, while a fan sitting near Beacon contributor Randy Bocksnick offers her thoughts.
With the crowd stirred up all around him, Watterud missed three of the four shots. Privately, a Whitefish official complained to me about Finberg’s outbursts, the last of which came after the intentional foul call.
At this point, it was clear that the officials had let the game get out of control, a fact that appeared to annoy them. Thankfully, they had a chance to regroup at the half and came out calling the second half very tightly, no doubt in hopes of keeping the game under control and the injuries at bay.
Three things stood out in this game:
First, while C-Falls was shooting 48% from the floor and lighting up the net from the three-point line with seven threes, a tight, shot-denying defense held Whitefish to seven points in the first quarter, three points in the second quarter and six points in the third quarter.
Starting the fourth quarter with a 47-16 lead allowed Finberg to give his starters a rest, letting the rest of the team a bigger than usual shot to finish out the game. Whitefish managed 27 points against C-Falls reserves in the fourth quarter, making the score look far more respectable than the reality.
Second, Chase Grilley (33) stepping up to fill the gap left by Fairbank during their Senior Night, hitting three three-pointers, making seven steals and seven assists to end up with 13 points.
Third, Grant Getts (44) also had a big night, with his first double double (ie: at least ten points and at least ten rebounds), finishing the night with twelve points and ten rebounds.
Here, a look at the defense Columbia Falls threw at Whitefish all night.
Chase Grilley (33) takes a swipe at Aaron Tkachyk’s (12) shot.
Senior Chase Grilley (33) slips past Whitefish’s Connor Silliker (40) for a reverse layup in the 2nd half of Saturday’s game.
Grilley (33) and Mitchell Wassam (34) cut off Tkachyk’s (12) drive.
Grilley (33) again gets a piece of the ball from behind the shooter, this time Colt Idol (34).
Getts (44) and Grilley (33) sky for a defensive rebound over Willie Roche (22).
Kaleb Johnson (35) asserts his ownership of the defensive lane, as Getts (44) cuts off Tkachyk’s path to the hoop. (2 shots)
Freshman Johnson (35, behind Getts) again shows that C-Falls has a lot to look forward to. Here, that’s his hand on top of the ball during Roche’s (22) shot, as once again, Getts cuts off the path to the hoop (and later gets this blocked shot’s rebound).
The student section gives their support during a C-Falls free throw.
Chase Fairbank (10) ices his broken nose as he watches his team mates hand out a defensive licking.
C-Falls basketball is a family affair, as sisters join their big brothers on the bench.
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