The Bulldogs put the finishing touches on their strong regular season with a dominant performance in Columbia Falls last week.
Whitefish took down the Wildcats 60-39 to end the season 13-5 and 7-3 in Northwest A conference standings, good for second place behind Browning.
Whitefish jumped out to an early 13-1 lead in the first quarter and held Columbia Falls to nearly 10 minutes without a made field goal.
The Wildcats exploded for 19 points in the second quarter but still trailed 31-20 at the half.
Dillon Botner and Lee Walburn made their presence felt early, combining for 24 of the team’s points in the first half alone.
Columbia Falls held on with the Dogs in the third, trailing 42-30 going into the fourth, but Whitefish outscored their rivals by nine in the final frame for the easy win.
Botner finished with a game-high 22 while Walburn racked up 16. Mark Anderson and Bodie Smith both added seven.
Dillon Shipp was the Wildcats’ leading scorer with 16, and the team’s best scorer, Drew Morgan, was suspended due to technical fouls incurred in a previous game.
A few days before the Dogs traveled to Ronan but fell to the Chiefs 66-64 in overtime.
Despite holding a slim 28-26 lead at half, Whitefish couldn’t put Ronan away in the second, who outscored the Dogs by two in the third to bring the defecit to zero.
Ronan outscored Whitefish 7-5 in overtime.
Ryan Kemm paced the Dogs with 19, while Walburn added 16 and Sam Menicke had 14.
Head coach Scott Smith didn’t mince words about his team’s performance in that game.
“We really didn’t show up to play. We didn’t play with any emotion or intensity and turned the ball over way too much,” Smith said. “We just couldn’t get stops. Offensively we didn’t play great, but our intensity defensively wasn’t very good and we couldn’t get stops. We let them hang around awhile, and when you let teams hang around then anything can happen and it did for us.”
However, he said if his team brings the game they played in Columbia Falls into the postseason, he’s confident they’ll be just fine.
“Our intensity was a lot better. We still made a few too many mistakes, some of that I think was just emotions and things like that, but we’ve got to take better care of the ball and play with the same intensity moving forward.”
Now it’s district tournament time for the Bulldogs.
Whitefish will host the tournament this week from Thursday through Saturday.
The Bulldogs are the No. 2 seed in the tournament and will play the winner of Polson and Columbia Falls on Friday at 6:30 p.m.
The top four teams advance to the divisional tournament the following week in Hamilton.
Smith said he’s hoping to see his team put together all the focus and priorities they’ve had this season and finish the year on a high note.
“Anything can happen, you’re going to have to play each game like it’s your last game because it could be. We’re really going to have to do the things I’ve stressed all year long. Great defense — we want to hold our opponents under 50 points. Then we need to execute offensively and eliminate turnovers. Then we’ll be fine and we’ll be in the game, but it’s kind of an up and down this season,” he said. “Consistency is what we’ve been lacking, but hopefully we can bring everything together for these last few weeks of the season and get it done.”
Whitefish 10 18 15 16 5 – 64
Ronan 7 19 17 16 7 – 66
WHITEFISH – Ryan Kemm 19, Lee Walburn 16, Sam Menicke 14, Dillon Botner 9, Mark Anderson 4, Jack Schwaiger 2
Whitefish 13 18 11 18 – 60
Columbia Falls 1 19 10 9 – 39
WHITEFISH – Jayce Cripe 5, Bodie Smith 7, Mark Anderson 7, Sam Menicke 3, Lee Walburn 16, Dillon Botner 22.