Columbia Falls fights through Havre to reach State A semis
GREAT FALLS – Columbia Falls coach Cary Finberg put summed it up as best he could
“The only thing good about tonight is that we advance to the next round,” the relieved boys’ basketball coach said.
Finberg’s Wildcats survived an ugly showing with Havre, a State A first-round game where both side’s shots seemed aimed for a basket half its normal size. Columbia Falls recovered from a 25-percent shooting first half to hit better than half of its attempts after intermission and outlast an upset-minded Havre team, 50-36.
Neither side could have imagined 50 points the way the first quarter went, though. Ty Morgan and Nakia Alexander each scored put-back layups for Columbia Falls (17-4) in the quarter, but that was all the team could find as Columbia Falls went into the first break up 4-2.
“You’ve just got to have confidence because you’ve taken so many shots over the year, you’ve got to know your shot is going to go down whether or not it has been previously,” said Morgan, who’d end up with a game-high 19 points.
The Wildcats hit on 2 of 14 shots in the first quarter while Havre was a lowly 1 of 10 from the field. The second was an improvement, but not by much as the contest went to half 18-8.
The Blue Ponies (7-14) squeezed into the tournament with a second seed from Central A for their first state bracket since 2006. The slow start played more to Havre’s inexperienced advantage, the team’s coach said.
“It really did and it looked like both teams came out a little flat and a little scared almost,” Havre’s Curt Leeds said. “No one did anything to push the other team, it was just who was going to step up a little more in the third quarter.”
After the teams wentfor tat in the third, Columbia Falls’ lead settled at 28-19 by that point, the six-time consecutive Northwestern A champs came alive in the fourth quarter with 22 points to seal the win.
Grant Wallace scored all eight of his points in the final period and Morgan chipped in six – four on free throws to complete his 8-of-8 day at the line. Jared Trinastich finished with nine and eight rebounds.
“You could definitely tell once points started dropping in and the energy definitely picked up with us, it showed at the end of the game on the scoreboard,” Morgan said.
Columbia Falls did its best to limit the touches of Havre’s Dane Warp, the classification’s leading scorer during the regular season with 23.6 points a game. He wound up with 15, 11 coming after halftime, and Kade Rismon added nine in support.
Havre drops into the loser-out bracket to face Stevensville on Friday afternoon while Columbia Falls will next face Laurel (19-2), which beat the defending champion Yellowjackets in Thursday’s early game.
“We got to watch the first game and they were pretty hot from 3-point land, that was pretty evident,” Morgan said of Laurel, which hit 7 of 16 treys against Stevi. “We’ve got to play energized for four quarters; we can’t have another lapse like this or else we won’t be in the chipper on Saturday.”