The Bulldogs squeaked out two close wins against Polson and Libby last week.
On Thursday the Dogs (8-4, 5-2) hosted Polson and came away with the 53-49 win in the Northwest A conference showdown.
After trailing for most of the night, Polson stepped ahead for the lead with seven minutes to go in the fourth after Micah Askan nailed a three from the top of the key.
Mark Anderson had other plans, however, and hit a three seconds later to put the Dogs back on top.
With less than a minute to go, Whitefish’s Dillon Botner got his fifth foul on a layup attempt by Robin Erickson, who hit his two free throws to put the Loggers up 49-48.
After Ryan Kemm hit a put-back layup off an offensive rebound to put the Dogs ahead 51-49 with half a minute to go, Erickson returned to the line with a chance to tie.
The first free throw spun around the rim several times before opting out, and the second attempt failed as well.
Libby fouled Lee Walburn immediately after, giving the Dogs the chance to seal the game for good with 15 seconds to go, but Walburn missed both his shots as well.
His redemption came soon after, as Walburn jumped a pass for a steal with 3.5 seconds to go.
Bodie Smith put the finishing touches on the Dogs’ win with two free throws with 2 seconds to go.
Botner led the team in scoring with 11, while Kemm and Anderson both added nine apiece.
Bulldogs head coach Scott Smith said he was happy to come away with the win, but unhappy with the amount of turnovers his team committed when pressured by the Pirates full-court press.
“That’s been one of our Achilles heels,” he said. “Unforced turnovers at times, sometimes they’re turnovers in tough situations, but we’re going to need to get a handle on that if we’re going to make any type of run in divisionals and districts and things like that. That’s our main focus, just taking control of the ball and not turning it over.”
The following day the Dogs traveled to Libby and came away with another close win, this time by the score of 49-46.
After leading 22-18 at half and 35-29 going into the third, Whitefish was outscored 17-14 in the final frame thanks to an offensive boost by the Loggers.
Sharpshooter Ryggs Johnston led his team with 23 points, but Smith said he’s happy with how his team defended Johnston.
“Most of the game we kept Ryggs under control, he had a couple threes at the end, but overall defensively we played pretty dang well,” he said.
Kemm exploded for 20 in the win, while Botner added 10.
This week Whitefish has a pair of road battles, first at Eureka on Friday before heading to Stevensville on Saturday.
Smith said he’s looking forward to an extra few days of practice before the games so his players can fight off some lingering illnesses and rest up, but the weekend should hopefully be an opportunity to tighten their game up.
“We’ve got to start cleaning a lot of things up,” he said. “We’ll add a couple things here and there, but for the most part we’ve just got to clean stuff up. Against Eureka we’re looking to play high intensity and keep turnovers to a minimum. The same thing against Stevi, those are two teams that we should be able to get if we play our game.”
Polson 11 9 12 17 — 49
Whitefish 9 14 11 19 — 53
WHITEFISH – Bodie Smith 2, Justin Conklin 3, Jack Schwaiger 4, Mark Anderson 9, Sam Menicke 7, Ryan Kemm 9, Lee Walburn 8, Dillon Botner 11.
Whitefish 11 11 13 14 — 49
Libby 9 9 11 17 — 46
WHITEFISH – Justin Conklin 8, Mark Anderson 5, Ryan Kemm 20, Lee Walburn 6, Dillon Botner 10.