The Bulldogs took care of business against the Wildcats at home, winning 60-45 behind Lee Walburn’s 29 points.
Walburn got things going right away, scoring the Dogs’ first six points out of the gates. Whitefish (6-4) opened the game with an early 10-2 run, with all of the team’s points coming from Walburn and Dillon Botner.
By the end of the quarter, Columbia Falls (1-9) made a run and cut the lead down to 13-10 with one minute to go in the first.
Mark Anderson had other plans, however, and finished off the Cats’ run with a half court shot to put the Bulldogs up 19-12.
By halftime Whitefish had grown the lead to 33-19, with 26 of those points coming from the combination of Walburn and Botner.
Columbia Falls cut that lead down to 10 at the end of the third, trailing 43-33, but the Dogs responded.
Whitefish hit three straight threes, two coming from Jayce Cripe and another from Justin Conklin, to open the fourth, pushing the lead up to 52-33.
Botner finished the game with nine points, all of which came in the first half. Cripe and Conklin both added six.
Head coach Scott Smith said he was frustrated with the team’s 19 turnovers, but loved the energy they brought to the rivalry game.
“Our intensity was great throughout the game. It was the best intensity we’ve played with throughout the season,” Smith said.
On Saturday the Dogs got another shot at Browning, but fell 71-57 despite another 28 points from Walburn.
A big first quarter built the Indians’ lead for good. Browning outscored the Dogs 26-9 in the opening frame.
“We let things get away from us first quarter. We had some keys to the game, one was composure in the first quarter. We just dug ourselves a hole in the first quarter that was tough to get out of,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t cut it close, but overall I thought the second half we handled the pressure much better.”
Botner and Ryan Kemm both added eight points for Whitefish. Deion Madplume led Browning’s scoring with 14 points and Rylee Spoonhunter added 11.
This week the Dogs will host Polson Friday before traveling to Libby on Saturday.
Friday’s game will begin at 7:30 p.m., with Whitefish Winter Carnival’s Frey and Freya being announced before tip-off.
Smith said the focus this week is on running their half-court offense better.
“We’ve just got to be able to execute the offense a little better. We’re settling for too many shots that just aren’t good quality shots,” he said. “Then also communicating better defensively and helping out on screens, I think we’ll be just fine as long as our intensity stays up.”
Whitefish 19 14 10 17 – 60
Columbia Falls 12 7 14 12 – 45
WHITEFISH – Jayce Cripe 6, Bodie Smith 2, Justin Conklin 6, Mark Anderson 3, Sam Menicke 3, Ryan Kimm 2, Lee Walburn 29, Dillon Botner 9.
Browning 26 11 11 23 — 71
Whitefish 9 14 18 16 — 57
WHITEFISH – Bodie Smith 5, Jack Schwaiger 2, Mark Anderson 3, Sam Menicke 5, Ryan Kemm 8, Lee Walburn 28, Dillon Botner 8