Wildkats throttle Hamilton in defensive battle

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COLUMBIA FALLS — Thirty-nine points is rarely a lot in a game of basketball, but it was all the Wildkats needed to turn this one into a rout.

Employing a full-court press nearly the entire game, Columbia Falls earned a 39-22 victory over Hamilton in Class A nonconference girls basketball action on Saturday evening at Columbia Falls High School.

Coming off an overtime loss where they allowed 70 points to Browning, the Wildkats (11-1 overall) were looking to shore things up on defense.

But the Broncs (6-7) were up to the task of matching the Wildkats’ gritty defensive effort early in the game. The teams traded turnovers and missed free throws until Ryley Kehr of Columbia Falls put the first points on the board with just over four minutes left in the first quarter.

“They were competing, getting after us and being physical and we didn’t match it early on. We were trying to beat their physicality and their pressure by dribbling the basketball,” Columbia Falls coach Cary Finberg said.

“It just kind of played right into their hands.”

Hamilton drained a pair of 3-pointers to outscore Columbia Falls 6-2 in a first quarter where the Wildkats had few open looks at the basket.

Columbia Falls stepped up its defensive effort in the second quarter, converting turnovers into points to take a slim 10-8 lead into the half. Hamilton’s only points in the quarter came on Katelyn Dickemore’s free throws with 1:20 to go.

“Credit to Hamilton, they were very physical, they got after us and it took us a half to match their physicality,” Finberg said.

In the third quarter, Columbia Falls found a way to break down the Broncs’ aggressive defense, feeding the ball down low and letting players like Trista Cowan and Josie Windauer work in the paint. Cowan and Windauer each had 7 points in the quarter.

Cowan would finish with a team-high 13, and Windauer ended with 11.

“Part of our focus at halftime was to quit dribbling the ball and get the ball inside,” Finberg said.

“In the first half we would catch it and we would dribble, we weren’t seeing things. And once we slowed down and started seeing the post, the physical game turned to our favor because our kids like to play that way.”

Hamilton continued to be stumped by the Wildkats’ press and was held scoreless in the third quarter until Sophia Doyle’s basket with 1:55 left.

Columbia Falls entered the fourth with a comfortable 29-11 lead and the game in hand.

“This is definitely a game that we can learn things from,” Finberg said.

“Hopefully we’re still improving; hopefully we’re still not as good as we’re going to be. And this is a game that’s good for our girls.”

Columbia Falls will return to Northwest A play on Tuesday at Ronan (5-7).

The Wildkats have a nonconference game Saturday at Corvallis.

Hamilton 6 2 3 11 – 22

Columbia Falls 2 8 19 10 – 39

HAMILTON – Sophia Doyle 2, Abby Johnson 5, Meriola Tesoro 3, Maggie Ringer 4, Lauren Ryter 3, Katelyn Dickemore 5.

CFALLS – Maddie Robison 4, Josie Windauer 11, Hannah Schweikert 2, Ryley Kehr 7, Paige Burger 2, Trista Cowan 13.

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