In an intense rivalry game with a state tournament berth on the line, the Whitefish and Columbia Falls boys basketball teams put on the show many people expected, with the Bulldogs edging the Wildcats 68-66 in Monday night’s challenge game.
Whitefish, along with Northwest A champion Ronan, will play in the Class A state tournament, held Feb. 28 through March 1 in Billings. Columbia Falls’ season is over.
Junior Colt Idol, who led the Bulldogs in scoring all four games of the tournament, scored a game-high 28 points to pace the Bulldogs. Senior Shawn Watterud added 24 to go along with eight rebounds, four assists and five steals. Idol also had five steals.
Senior Chase Grilley led the Wildcats with 25 points and junior Grant Getts chipped in 14.
Columbia Falls scored the first two points of the game, which was the only time the Wildcats led the entire game. The Wildcats were down 28-23 at halftime, but clawed back to a 36-36 tie midway through the third quarter. At the end of the third, the ‘Cats, led by Grilley’s 12 points in the quarter, trailed only 45-41.
Whitefish scored the first five points of the fourth to build a nine-point lead at 50-41. But again the Wildcats fought back. Grilley stole an inbounds pass and scored a lay-up with 1:34 left in the game to bring the score to 60-57. Twenty seconds later, Getts scored a basket to put the score at 61-59, the Bulldogs clinging to a narrow lead.
The Wildcats never got any closer. Junior Mackey Nolan hit a three-pointer with 2.9 seconds left to pull the Wildcats to within two points, 68-66. But it was too little, too late.
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