Columbia Falls Gets Revenge on Dillon, Advances to Western A Semifinals

The Wildcats have won 11 of their last 12 games leading into divisional semifinals

By Gavin Derkatch for 406mtsports.com
Columbia Falls' Alihn Anderson (13) shoots defended by Dillon's Braxtyn Turney (23) during the Western A Divisional basketball game between Columbia Falls and Dillon on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 at the Butte Civic Center. | Joseph Scheller, 406mtsports.com

Columbia Falls had been waiting to get its revenge on Dillon for some time now.

The Wildcats suffered one-point defeats to the Beavers in the Class A football state championship and again in basketball on Dec. 8.

With plenty of football players on both the Columbia Falls and Dillon basketball rosters, Thursday’s opening round game at the Western A Divisional provided another opportunity for the Wildcats.

And this time, they got it done.

Columbia Falls edged out Dillon in another tightly-contested matchup, picking up a 51-49 win to secure a spot in the semifinals.

It was a vital win for its state tournament hopes, and taking down the Beavers added another layer of meaning.

“We finally got one, and we needed this one,” senior guard Jace Hill said.

The Wildcats have now won 11 of their last 12 games and look to be finding their rhythm at just the right time.

It took some struggles early in the season to get to this point. Dealing with the injury bug to start the year, Columbia Falls was 2-5 through seven games.

Of those five losses, four of them came by four or less points, including a pair of one-point defeats.

But playing in those tight games prepared the Wildcats for games like Thursday against Dillon, a close matchup throughout in which they trailed by one point entering the fourth quarter.

“Early in the year, we had close game after close game and we lost our fair share,” Columbia Falls head coach Chris Finberg said.

“But I think that helped us. I think the quality of opponents we’ve played, and those close games that we played put us in these situations. The moment wasn’t too big, and thankfully we were able to come out on top this time.”

In a game that featured 11 ties and 10 lead changes, the Wildcats found a way to win and now find themselves in the semifinals, one win away from a state tournament berth.

A pair of football standouts led Columbia Falls in scoring as Cody Schweikert, a quarterback and linebacker, led all scorers with 16 points and Hill, his wide receiver, added 11 points.

With many of the Wildcats playing sports together since grade school, that bond has helped their performance between the lines.

After a state runner-up finish in football, the tight-knit group hopes to continue their momentum on the hardwood and clinch a spot at the state tournament for the second year in a row.

“Most of us have played together since about the fourth grade. So it’s kind of like family, we’re all good friends and have known each other forever,” Hill said.

Columbia Falls will take on Hamilton in the semifinals on Friday at 3:30 p.m. with a chance to lock up a spot at state.

After overcoming their early season struggles, the Wildcats are now one of the hottest teams in all of Class A.

And there’s no better time to be playing their best basketball of the season.

“I really like where we’re at,” Finberg said.

“We probably didn’t really catch our stride, our basketball legs until the middle of January. This is the healthiest we’ve been, so that helps tremendously.”

With a long-awaited win over the Beavers now under the Wildcats’ belt, their attention will turn to the semifinals and beyond.

“I think it’s the perfect time to get our team rolling, and we want to keep it going,” Hill said.