HAMILTON — Columbia Falls and Browning have been the two top-ranked teams in the Western A all year, and the two powers will meet for a fourth time in the divisional championship game. But they got their in very different ways during Friday’s semifinals.
Columbia Falls overcame a slow start and then held off Libby 37-33 in a low-scoring, close contest. Browning had little trouble, dominating Butte Central 52-18.
Libby led Columbia Falls 8-6 after one quarter. The Wildkats took the lead 17-16 at halftime. And while they held the advantage throughout the second half, they could never create any separation from the Loggers. Libby held the ball down by only two in the final minute. Trista Cowan made perhaps the play of the game, grabbing a steal to prevent a potential game-tying or winning chance. Columbia Falls hit a couple free throws to seal the four-point win.
Columbia Falls star senior Ryley Kehr came through in a game that was lacking many buckets, scoring 17 points. Cowan added 10 to go with her clutch steal. No Libby player reached double figures on a balanced night. Alli Collins scored the most with eight points.
Browning took the drama out of its semifinal early. The Indians led the Maroons 17-3 after one quarter and 29-7 at halftime. Browning shot 44 percent from the field, while holding Butte Central to only 14 percent in the 34-point victory.
Taylor Jordan led the Indians’ attack with 14 points. Dulci Skunkcap added 10. Butte Central senior Tricia Joyce went 0 for 5 and didn’t score, one day after making seven 3-pointers and scoring 23 points in a close win over Ronan.
Columbia Falls and Browning will collide at 6:30 p.m. Saturday in the divisional championship. Browning won the first meeting at home, 70-67 in overtime. Columbia Falls won the rematch at home, 57-55, and the Wildkats took the rubber match 55-49 in the Northwest A district championship last week.
Two early loser-out games provided plenty of excitement in Hamilton. The hosting Broncs beat rival Corvallis 47-46, thanks to a buzzer-beating winner by Mariola Tesoro. Ronan followed, taking a 47-44 overtime thriller versus Frenchtown.
On Saturday morning, Hamilton takes on Butte Central in another loser out at 9:30 a.m. At the same time, Ronan will battle Libby.