Thus far, Flathead County’s high school basketball teams are getting off to a relatively slow start, though the conference schedule is just getting started. Conference games, of course, decide teams’ ranks at the end of the year. Through the first month of the regular season, the only teams – boys or girls – from the county’s five high schools to have winning records are the Columbia Falls boys (3-2), Glacier boys (3-1) and Glacier girls (3-1).
At Flathead, both the girls and boys are enduring transition years, having lost a substantial number of seniors last year. The boys also lost Brock Osweiler. The girls have yet to break into the win column and have a 0-5 record. The boys are 1-4, with their one victory coming against Whitefish this weekend. Guard Danny Salois nailed a three-pointer with eight seconds left to give the Braves a 67-66 win.
Columbia Falls is among the favorites in both boys and girls to win their respective conferences, which are balanced across the board this year. The girls are led by senior guard Alyssa Ladenburg and the DeWit sisters. The DeWits are both taller than 6 feet and are each averaging double-digit scoring and are in the top five in rebounding.
The Wildkats are 1-4 so far but have played three of those games against Class AA opponents, including a 49-47 victory over Flathead. The Kats begin their conference schedule this Friday against Libby.
On the boys side in Columbia Falls, the Wildcats have used their usual feistiness and offensive balance to jump out to a 3-2 record. Their conference schedule also begins this week against Libby (4-1) on Thursday. In two of their three wins, the Wildcats beat Class AA Flathead and Missoula Sentinel by a combined 42 points.
Like the Flathead Bravettes, the Bigfork Valkyries lost a core of seniors to graduation last year. The Vals are the defending Northwestern A girls divisional champions. But as they enter their conference schedule, the Vals have a win under their belts and have started the season 1-2. They are led by senior guard Roxy Thurman. The Bigfork boys are 0-3 in this young season.
The Whitefish Bulldogs have lost a handful of tough games this year, including one-point losses to both Glacier and Flathead. The Bulldogs lost 78-77 to Glacier and 67-66 to Flathead. Led by 2008 all-state selection and Montana State University recruit Colt Idol, the Bulldogs have started off the season 2-4 despite the close losses. After averaging 22.1 points per game as a junior last year, Idol is posting 21.8 points per contest this year.
The Lady Bulldogs fit into this year’s theme of readjustment and transition, as they are struggling to deal with the loss of Ashley Ferda and other key seniors from last year’s team. Ferda, a multiple all-state selection, is playing for the University of Montana. Senior Kate Klundt has been doing everything in her power to keep the 1-5 Lady Bulldogs afloat. Klundt is leading the conference in scoring at 19 points per game.
The combined 6-2 record of Glacier’s girls and boys teams is a remarkable feat for a program in only its second year of existence. For the girls, Emilee Hashley has continued her dominant from last year at the post position. Also, fellow senior Lindsea Vaudt has played consistent ball in helping to guide the Lady Wolfpack to a 3-1 record.
On the boys side, senior guard Ben Cutler anchors the Wolfpakck’s scoring attack, which is the best in the state. Cutler is leading the state in scoring at 26 points per game. Shay Smithwick-Hann, a junior post, is averaging 12 points per game and nine rebounds, fifth in the state. With a group of speedy teammates running alongside Cutler and Smithwick-Hann, the Wolfpack is a run-and-gun team that leads the state in scoring at 68 points per game.
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