The Bulldogs played hard but just couldn’t get their shots to fall at the Western A Divisional Tournament in Hamilton.
On Wednesday the Bulldogs took on Butte Central, but a slow second quarter opened a big lead in the 49-29 blowout win.
Whitefish led 9-6 after the first but fell victim to a 15-2 run in the second and the Dogs couldn’t claw their way back into the game in the second half.
Derek Kastella was the only Whitefish scorer in double digits with 14 points.
“Against Butte we started off well,” head coach Sean Duff said. “We knew what they were going to do. We panicked a little bit when they increased their defensive press, though.”
“We showed our inexperience. That tournament atmosphere kind of got to us,” he added.
Butte Central finished third in the tournament and will head to Butte for the state tournament.
The following night saw a heartbreaking 56-52 loss to Stevensville to close out the season and send the Bulldogs home.
Whitefish led 13-7 after the first and held the lead until a three by Jarod Kingsbury put the Yellowjackets up 20-18 in the second. A James Fry three at the end of the third had Whitefish down by six heading into the fourth, and while a Sawyer Silliker score in the post cut the lead to one with four minutes left, the Bulldogs couldn’t make up the difference.
Missed opportunities hurt Whitefish late in the game. The Dogs missed two straight one-and-one bonus free throw attempts to tie the game with less than four minutes remaining, which were followed by a Kingsbury three at the other end, and a missed open three led to another Kingsbury score to open the lead up for Stevensville.
Whitefish couldn’t close the gap after cutting the lead to four with 11 seconds left.
“We fought and clashed. We played a pretty good game but came out on the short end,” Duff said.
Late game free throws have been make or break for the Bulldogs all year. In the season opener against Flathead, missed free throws in the final seconds led to a loss for Whitefish, and at home against Frenchtown on senior night, clutch shooting at the line was a key part of the win. However, the latter wasn’t the case on Thursday.
“When we needed to make free throws at the end of the game we couldn’t convert,” Duff said. “You can’t do that, when the pressure’s on you’ve got to be able to knock a few of those down.”
Silliker finished with 13 points while sophomores Ryan Kemm and Dillon Botner added 15 and 12.
“It was really exciting to see those sophomores really step up,” Duff said, noting that his younger players are already talking about their offseason plans to improve for next year. “Obviously it’s not the way we wanted to end the year, but there’s still a lot of positives.”
Butte Central 6 15 14 14 — 49
Whitefish 9 2 6 12 — 29
Butte Central — Nate McGree 14, Sam Johnston 9, Matt Simkins 2, Tanner Kump 5, Luke Heaphy 6, Cade Holter 6, Jared Simkins 7.
Whitefish — Derek Kastella 14, Brendyn Peacock 2, Sawyer Silliker 3, Ryan Kemm 5, Lee Waldorn 3, Dillon Botner 2.
Whitefish 13 9 16 14 — 52
Stevensville 7 17 20 12 — 56
Whitefish — Derek Kastella 3, Sawyer Silliker 13, Ryan Kemm 15, Lee Walburn 9, Dillon Botner 12.
Stevensville — Jared Kingsbury 19, James Fry 21, Dalton Bragg 6, Chase Richards 3, Alex Gavlack 2, Louis Estrada 5.