Northwestern A Divisionals: Columbia Falls Advances to Championship Game

By Beacon Staff

COLUMBIA FALLS – With 17 seconds remaining in the Northwestern A boys basketball divisional semifinals Friday night, Columbia Falls senior Austin Barth provided the exclamation point to a dominant Wildcats’ victory over Polson.

Barth caught a pass in the open court and, with some fans in the home crowd having already risen to their feet in anticipation, threw down a two-handed dunk to put top-seeded Columbia Falls up 52-36. It turned out to be the final two points of the game.

The Wildcats’ 52-36 victory put them back in the Northwestern A divisional championship game. They await the winner of second-seeded Whitefish and third-seeded Frenchtown, who play in a semifinal game at 8 p.m. Friday night.

The championship game is scheduled for 8 p.m. Saturday night, directly after the girls championship at 6 p.m. between top-seeded Frenchtown and second-seeded Polson. The Pirates, the No. 4 seed, will play in a loser-out game at 4 p.m. Saturday.

Barth finished with eight points, part of a balanced Columbia Falls scoring attack. Luke Kazlauskas led the Wildcats with 12 points, followed by Brian Marcille with 11. Parker Johnson scored eight.

The Wildcats (16-3) held off a late rally by the Pirates, who scored as many points in the fourth quarter as the previous three quarters combined. The Pirates (8-12) trailed 32-18 going into the fourth and fell behind 37-18 less than minute into the final period.

But Polson went on an 18-9 run to cut lead down to 10 at 46-36 with 2:07 remaining. It was closest the Pirates had been since the first half. And it was the closest they would get.

Riley Sampson led Polson with 10 points. Vince DiGiallonardo and Brady Hislop chipped in seven points apiece. Cody Fischer finished with five.

The Pirates were without senior leader Tyler Krell for the seventh straight game. Krell suffered a season-ending knee injury earlier this year.

Columbia Falls was able to overcome a number of missed close-range shots thanks to a stingy defense that flustered Polson’s guards with midcourt traps and quick rotations on help defense. The Wildcats held Polson to two points after the first quarter, leading the Pirates 11-2. They led 23-11 at half.

Columbia Falls is the defending Class A state champion.

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