Thursday morning, Laurel scored the first 21 points of the game to dash Columbia Falls’ dreams of a state championship. Two days later, the Wildkats got a little bit of payback.
Columbia Falls (25-2) beat the Locomotives 46-44 in overtime to take third place at the Class A state tournament in Great Falls, securing a top-three finish in the state for an incredible sixth consecutive season. The Wildkats finished third in 2014, third in 2015, second in 2016, won the state title in 2017, finished third in 2018 and did it again this year, winning three straight games after a humbling 58-29 loss to Laurel in the first round.
After the disastrous start against the Locomotives on Thursday, Columbia Falls had a much better first quarter in Saturday’s rematch, jumping out to a 13-9 lead and extending that edge to 25-17 at halftime. Laurel actually entered the fourth quarter down by nine, but held the Wildkats to just five points in the final period to force overtime.
In the extra session, both team struggled mightily to score points and combined to miss nine of 10 free throws in the final minute-plus, but the Columbia Falls defense was strong enough to prevent Laurel from finding the tying points.
Trista Cowan scored 16 to lead the Wildkats and tie for game-high honors with Laurel’s Aspen Cotter. Ryley Kehr added 11 points for Columbia Falls.
Columbia Falls beat Eastern A divisional champion Billings Central 43-38 earlier in the day in another game that went down to the wire.
Laurel 9 8 10 14 3 — 44
C-Falls 13 12 11 5 5 — 46
LAUREL — Aspen Cotter 16, Maeson Cotter 10, Kaitlyn Dawes 6, Sammi Spitzer 6, Gracey Willis 4, Sophie Timm 2
COLUMBIA FALLS — Trista Cowan 16, Ryley Kehr 11, Hannah Schweikert 6, Lakia Hill 5, Josie Windauer 4, Madysen Hoerner 2, Maddie Robison 2.