Local Teams Contending in Hoops

By Beacon Staff

Midway through the regular season, several local basketball teams have positioned themselves as frontrunners in their respective leagues.

The Columbia Falls boys are undefeated at 10-0 (3-0 conference) and leading Northwestern A. In Class B, Bigfork is at the top of league standings for both boys and girls. The Vikings are 9-4 (4-0) and the Valkyries are 11-1 (4-0).

Flathead Valley’s two other teams with unblemished league records are Polson and Columbia Falls in girls. The Pirates have a slim lead in the Northwestern A race with a 6-4 (4-0) record, but the Wildkats are close behind at 4-6 (3-0).

The boys and girls at the region’s two Class AA schools – Flathead and Glacier – are in the middle of the pack in their leagues, with all four teams hovering around .500 records. The Braves and Bravettes are both 5-4 overall, while Glacier’s boys are 4-6 and the girls are 6-4.

Before the season started, the race in Northwestern A boys was expected to come down to Polson and Columbia Falls, though the conference’s three other teams are all dangerous as well.

Halfway through the season, the standings are shaping up as predicted, though Whitefish fans are still waiting for their talented Bulldogs to win a conference game. Whitefish has lost several close games en route to its 5-5 (0-3) record.

With a 6-4 (3-1) record, Polson is directly in Columbia Falls’ rearview mirror. Led by the talented senior duo of Louis Mohr and Kyle Bagnell, the Pirates present matchup difficulties much like the Wildcats do. Mohr is averaging a conference-best 19.9 points per game, while Bagnell is fourth at 14.2.

Behind Polson is Libby at 6-5 (2-1). Ronan is 5-6 (0-3).

In the girls’ standings, Libby, Whitefish and Ronan are all chasing Polson and Columbia Falls. Like the boys, the Lady Pirates have two scorers who can put up 20 points on any given night. Junior Riley Kenney averages 13.5 points – third in the league – and senior Breanne Kelley is right behind her at 12.

Leading Columbia Falls is Montana State University recruit Kayla DeWit, who averages a conference-best 19 points per game. Libby is 3-8 (1-2), while Whitefish and Ronan are winless at 0-10 (0-3) and 0-11 (0-3), respectively.

Both Bigfork teams have multiple senior leaders who are filling the stat sheets this season. For the girls, speedy senior guards Caitlin Charlebois and Mallery Knoll each have posted 20-point games during a recent run of dominance capped off by a 72-32 victory over conference rival Eureka on Jan. 21. Knoll had 24 points in that game.

The boys have shown off a balanced scoring attack with several players capable of posting double digits, though senior Christian Ker may be the most difficult for defenses to handle. Ker scored 23 points in a recent 81-40 drubbing of Eureka.

The Glacier Wolfpack, picked by coaches to win Western AA boys in a preseason poll, recently snapped a five-game losing streak in which their record fell from 3-1 to 3-6. Glacier clamped down on defense and defeated Libby 42-30 on Jan. 21 to improve to 4-6. The Wolfpack are now entering the heart of their AA schedule.

Kalispell’s three other high school teams are also heading into the league stretch run with wins under their belts. Over the weekend, Glacier’s girls defeated Libby 51-35, Flathead’s boys slipped past Whitefish 62-55 and Flathead’s girls routed Whitefish 64-20.

District and divisional tournaments are held in mid-February, followed by state tournaments in early March.

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