The Bulldogs fought hard to the very end, but couldn’t make it out of the Western A Divisional Tournament over the weekend.
The Dogs (15-9) dropped games to Hamilton and Browning but defeated Polson in overtime.
On Thursday the team opened against top-seeded Hamilton out of the Southwest, but fell 62-51.
The two teams traded leads throughout the game, with the Bulldogs down by eight after one quarter but leading at half and going into the fourth quarter.
That three point lead slipped away in the fourth, however, as Hamilton outscored Whitefish 18-4 for the win.
That put Whitefish in the loser-out bracket for the weekend.
On Friday they got another shot at Polson, who blew them out by double digits in the Northwest A District Tournament.
Whitefish got its revenge, but it didn’t come easy in the 67-63 win.
The victory took a second-half rally after the Pirates jumped out to a 12-point lead at the half. A Lee Walburn three and subsequent dunk in the final minutes of the fourth quarter put the Dogs ahead three late.
Down two with seconds to go, Polson’s Colton Graham got an offensive rebound and hit the putback at the buzzer to send the game into overtime, Whitefish’s third in four games.
The Dogs took care of things in the extra period, outscoring Polson 12-8 for the win.
Walburn led all scorers with 26 while Dillon Botner scored 17.
That win set Whitefish up with another battle against Browning, but things didn’t go the way they’d hoped.
After leading by only three with one quarter played, Browning outscored the Dogs 22-13 in the second quarter to take a 39-27 halftime lead.
Whitefish outscored the Indians in the next two quarters, but it was only enough to cut the deficit to seven.
With the 62-55 win, Browning was able to advance to the Class A State Tournament next week in Great Falls, while Whitefish hangs it up for the season.
Walburn scored 22 and Botner 15 in their final game. Ryan Kemm added 11.
While a trip to state would have been the best ending, the team pulled off a massive 180 from where the program had been in the last few years.
This season’s overall record of 15-9 is a 13-win improvement over last season, and a six-game improvement over the previous two seasons combined.
However, the team is going to have some gaps to fill moving forward.
Next year’s squad will be without current seniors Walburn, Botner, Kemm, Jack Schwaiger and Mark Anderson, all of which played important roles on this year’s team.
Key returning players next season are Sam Menicke, Justin Conklin, Jayce Cripe and Bodie Smith.
Whitefish 12 13 12 18 12 – 67
Polson 12 25 8 10 8 – 63
WHITEFISH – Lee Walburn 26, Dillon Botner 17, Bodie Smith 9, Sam Menicke 6, Ryan Kemm 5, Justin Conklin 2, Mark Anderson 2.
Whitefish 14 13 12 16 – 55
Browning 17 22 9 14 – 62
WHITEFISH – Lee Walburn 22, Dillon Botner 15, Ryan Kemm 11, Sam Menicke 7.