Down one with under a minute to play in the Northwest A District championship game Saturday, the Wildkats got just what they needed from senior guard Ryley Kehr as her three-pointer bounced off the rim and through the hoop to put Columbia Falls up two with 53 seconds to play. Kehr would add another basket and a pair of free throws in the final 30 seconds, scoring the last nine points of the game as the Wildkats defeated Browning 55-49 for the district title.
The highly-anticipated third meeting between two of the top Class A teams in the state started with a back-and-forth battle in an opening quarter that saw six lead changes and five ties before Browning ended the frame up 23-20.
The Kats took a brief 26-25 lead on a pair of Trista Cowan free throws with 3:13 to play in the second quarter, but Columbia Falls would not lead again until the fourth quarter as Browning led 30-26 at the half.
The Kats cut the Browning lead to one with 2:38 to play in the third, but continued to trail the Lady Indians after three quarters, 40-37.
Hannah Schweikert cut the Browning lead to one with a pull-up jumper to start the fourth and later tied the game with a pair of free throws with 6:29 to play. Danaiya Polk knocked down a three on the Lady Indians’ next posession to give Browning back the lead but a pair of put-back baskets by Madysen Hoerner gave Columbia Falls its first lead of the second half at 46-45 with 4:32 to play. After a pair of baskets put Browning up 49-46 with just over three minutes to play, Kehr took over with nine straight points as the Kats picked up the win.
Kehr led the Kats with 19 points in the win while Cowan added 14, Josie Windauer and Schweikert each scored five, Hoerner had four points, Maddie Robison and LaKia Hill each scored three and Savvy Ellis had two points.
With the win, the Kats will enter the Western A Divisional Tournament as the top seed from the Northwest A District and will face Corvallis in the opening round Thursday at 9:30 a.m.
In boys action Saturday, a furious Wildcat comeback came up just short as Columbia Falls fell to Libby, 65-61.
Down by 12 entering the fourth quarter, the Cats got 12 points from senior forward Sam Hovde in the final eight minutes to cut the lead to four, but could not complete the comeback.
Hovde had 22 points to lead the Wildcat effort while Drew Morgan added 16, Danny Henjum scored six, William Dyon had five points, Zack Pletcher scored four, Dillon Shipp and Logan Bechtel each had three and Dillon Wanner added two points.
With the loss, the Wildcats finish the season 3-17.