Northwestern A Divisional: Wildkats Retake Championship

By Beacon Staff

If Columbia Falls wanted to reclaim its conference trophy, the Wildkats would have to rip it from Frenchtown’s grips.

That’s exactly what the girls did.

Senior post Haley Belgarde scored a game-high 21 points, junior Winter Kemppainen and freshman Cydney Finberg each added 11 and Columbia Falls retook the conference crown, defeating the Frenchtown Lady Broncs 53-47 in the Northwestern A championship game on Sunday night at Glacier High School.

The Wildkats, the top-ranked team in Class A with an impressive 18-1 record, roll into the state tournament riding an 11-game win streak. The girls play the winner of Browning and Belgrade, who are squaring off in a Monday challenge game, in the opening round of the tournament at 12:30 p.m., March 13, in Great Falls.

Sunday’s championship matchup was a fitting conclusion to the conference tournament. When the Lady Broncs joined the Northwestern A two years ago, Columbia Falls was the team to beat. The Wildkats had won three straight divisional titles. But then Frenchtown upset the order, winning the last two, including last year’s 49-37 chipper over Columbia Falls.

It wasn’t easy unseating the two-time defending champs but the Wildkats whittled away at the Lady Broncs’ early lead. With the game tied 34-all entering the fourth quarter, the depth of Columbia Falls shined brightest. Among five different scorers, Finberg led the way with six points down the stretch. Frenchtown shot 13 of 22 from the free throw line all game.

Senior Vanessa Stavish scored 19 points and Haley Cyr added 10 for the Lady Broncs (14-6), who will play Polson (4-16) at 6 p.m. Monday in a challenge game to see who advances to state as the conference’s No. 2 seed.

Junior Ciera Finberg scored eight points for Columbia Falls.

Columbia Falls 9 16 9 19 – 53
Frenchtown 14 6 14 13 – 47

COLUMBIA FALLS – Ciera Finberg 3 0-0 8, Cydney Finberg 4 2-3 11, Ellie Johnson 1 0-0 2, Winter Kemppainen 5 0-2 11, Haley Belgarde 7 7-10 21. Totals 20 9-15 53.

FRENCHTOWN – Haley Cyr 4 1-2 10, Vanessa Stavish 6 6-10 19, Kayla Blood 2 3-3 7, Lacey Hochhalter 2 0-0 4, Alli Moe 2 1-1 5, Brooke Yarnell 0 1-2 1, Laci Willett 0 1-4 1. Totals 16 13-22 47.

3-pointers – Columbia Falls 4 (Ci.Finberg 2, Cyd. Finberg, Johnson), Frenchtown 2 (Cyr, Stavish). Team fouls – Columbia Falls 16, Frenchtown 17. Fouled out – None.

Consolation Game
Polson 35, Libby 32

The Lady Pirates kept their season alive by narrowly edging the Lady Loggers. Nichole Lake scored 10 points and Jessica Bagnell and Skyla Krantz each netted eight for Polsonwhich will play Frenchtown in a challenge game on Monday night.

Taylor Quinn paced Libby (8-13) with 14 points.

Polson 4 8 11 12 – 35
Libby 9 10 5 8 – 32

POLSON – Skyla Krantz 3 1-2 8, Jessica Bagnell 3 2-2 8, Nichole Lake 5 0-0 10, Dylan Quinn 2 0-0 4, Kaelen Wall 0 1-2 1, Monica Frame 1 0-0 2, Lauren Lefthand 1 0-0 2. Totals 15 4-7 35.

LIBBY – Shyla Stevenson 3 0-1 6, Hailey Moe 1 1-4 3, Taylor Quinn 4 6-8 14, Dayln Germany 0 4-7 4, Devon Gallagher 1 3-4 5. Totals 12 13-27 32.

3-point goals – Polson 1 (Krantz), Libby 0. Team fouls – Polson 20, Libby 14. Fouled out – Moe.

Loser-out game, Sunday, 9 a.m.
Libby 9 11 10 13 – 43
Whitefish 2 4 5 11 – 22

LIBBY – Ashley Walker 2 1-2 5, Gery Oliver 0 1-2 1, Dani Hawthorne 0 0-2 0, Shyla Stevenson 3 2-3 8, Hailey Moe 3 6-9 12, Taylor Quinn 4 3-4 11, Dayln Germany 0 1-2 1, Devon Gallagher 2 0-0 5. Totals 14 14-24 43.

WHITEFISH – Katie Fyall 1 2-2 4, Haley Nicholson 1 1-4 3, Simone Craft 2 3-4 7, Cevana Lawshe 0 0-1 0, Anna Peterson 0 4-4 4, Makenna Benbrook 0 0-1 0, Victoria Buls 2 0-0 4. Totals 6 10-15 22.

3-pointers — Libby 1 (Gallagher), Whitefish 0; Team fouls – Libby 17, Whitefish 20. Fouled out – None

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