Despite outscoring the Wildcats in the second half, the Bulldogs dropped Friday’s rivalry game in heartbreaking fashion.
Down 35-34 heading into the fourth quarter, Whitefish managed to force overtime, continuing what had already been a tightly-contested battle.
The Dogs only managed three points in the extra period, which looked like it would do the trick until the Wildcats’ William Dyon banked in a 15-foot jumper at the buzzer to steal the game.
Dyon had a game-high 15 points, while Whitefish’s leading scorers were Justin Conklin with 14 and Jayce Cripe with 13.
Head coach Scott Smith said the game was there for his team’s taking at the end, but they couldn’t finish.
“We had opportunities and kind of let it slip right through our hands. The last few games have been the same thing,” he said. “We just let them hang around. They play extremely tough and they’re well coached. They did what they needed to do and we didn’t.”
“They ended up getting the last shot there at the end of the game. Give [Dyon] credit, he made the shot when he needed to,” Smith added.
The win improves Columbia Falls to 3-9 overall and 2-3 in Northwest A competition, while Whitefish drops to 3-10 and 1-6 in league play.
The loss is a tough pill to swallow for the Bulldogs, but Smith said the mindset is changing moving forward.
“It hurts, but it’s not going to determine whether we go to divisionals or make it to state, those goals are still intact,” Smith said. “The season hasn’t gone how we wanted to. I told the kids, right now the season is starting fresh. It’s one game at a time now.”
Whitefish will get a couple of chances to test that attitude this week.
On Tuesday after press time they faced off against Ronan at home, and on Friday they’ll host Corvallis at 7:15 p.m.
Both games will be challenges in their own ways, Smith said.
“Ronan has some athletic kids. They’re going to press you a bit and try to run. The first game we played them we allowed 18 points off rebounds and went 5 for 17 at the free throw line and we lost by three,” he said. “[Corvallis’s] starting five is as good as anyone’s in the west. If we play a consistent game for all four quarters, we’ll have a chance.”
Whitefish 9 8 17 16 3 - 53
Columbia Falls 9 11 15 15 4 - 54
WHITEFISH – Bodie Smith 8, Jaxsen Schlauch 2, Danny Davis 3, Justin Conklin 14, Garrett Brock 4, Jayce Cripe 13, Sam Menicke 7, Talon Holmquist 2.