A Ryan Kemm layup following a huge block by Lee Walburn on the other end had the Bulldogs dead even with Columbia Falls in the fourth quarter Thursday night.
Tied at 38 apiece with 5:30 minutes left, things looked good for the Dogs, who had already battled back from a 12-point deficit in the third.
After more back and forth scoring, Walburn, the game’s leading scorer with 23 points, contested a layup and picked up his fifth foul with two minutes to play, the Dogs down five.
The scoring slowed from there, and Columbia Falls finished the game on an 8-3 run to close out the 53-43 conference win.
Kemm added 9 to Walburn’s 23. For the Wildcats, Matt Morrison scored 14 and Quintin Schriver 11.
Head coach Sean Duff said not finishing late in the game has been the team’s Achilles heel all season long. It was the same story on Thursday.
“Three quarters of solid playing again, and then we revert back to some timid stuff,” Duff said. “When you’ve got the momentum going, you’ve gotta keep running your offense and making shots.”
Duff said he was also concerned with his team’s shot selection late in the game. For one, he said he’s not letting the kids shoot threes in practice after a 3/35 performance.
“We live and die by that shot, and we can’t afford to do that. High school basketball is not rocket science,” he said. “Whoever takes the better shots is going to win.”
Now it’s onto the postseason tournaments for the Bulldogs, who are hoping to put it all together after a down season.
Whitefish will open the Northwest A District Tournament in Ronan against No. 3-seed Libby at 8 p.m. on Thursday.
If they come away with the win, they’ll take on Polson the following night at 8 p.m. With a first-round loss they’ll play instead on Saturday at 11 a.m.
Whitefish has faced off against the Loggers twice this season.
On Jan. 19 they fell 61-44 at Libby, after the Loggers’ Ryggs Johnston exploded for 30 points despite 25 from Walburn.
In the prior matchup on Dec. 21, Libby also won 59-50 behind 27 from Johnston.
Needless to say, containing Johnston will be the priority.
“Everything goes through him, and he’s hard to stop. If you forget about him, he’ll pull up anywhere across half court and hit it,” he said.
Columbia Falls 6 18 14 15 — 53
Whitefish 8 11 15 9 — 43
COLUMBIA FALLS — Austin Green 8, Drew Morgan 9, Lowell Panasuk 8, Billy Barrett 3, Quintin Schriver 11, Matt Morrison 14.
WHITEFISH — Jack Schwaiger 4, Brendyn Peacock 3, Ryan Kemm 9, Lee Walburn 23, Dillon Botner 4.