GREAT FALLS – What a difference two days made for the Columbia Falls girls.
The Wildkats claimed third place at the State A girls basketball tournament at Pacific Steel & Recycling Four Seasons Arena, holding off Laurel in overtime for a 46-44 win on Saturday. The Wildkats lost to Laurel in the first round on Thursday 58-29. Columbia Falls and Laurel won loser-out games on Saturday morning against Billings Central and Browning, respectively, to earn berths in the consolation game.
Columbia Falls led 36-22 with 2:50 to play in the third quarter, but Laurel would mount a comeback without standout freshman Mya Hansen, who left the game at the end of the first half with a shoulder injury. Laurel went on a 19-3 run to take a 41-39 lead with 41 seconds left, but Columbia Falls’ Ryley Kehr tied it up with 16 seconds left. The Locomotives missed on their ensuing possession, sending the game to overtime.
The Wildkats took a 45-44 lead on a basket by Josie Windauer with 1:21 to play. Laurel was unable to score on the other end, forcing the Locomotives to foul. Columbia Falls, though, missed both free throws but corralled the offensive rebound and got two more shots from the line. Again, the Wildkats missed both.
Laurel’s Maeson Cotter attacked the basket and drew a foul, sending her to the line with a chance to take the lead with 13.2 seconds. Cotter missed both, forcing Laurel to foul again. But the free throw woes continued for Columbia Falls, as the Wildkats made it six consecutive misses.
With no timeouts, Laurel’s Aspen Cotter drove the length of the floor but saw her layup attempt roll off the front iron into Kehr’s hands with 1.3 left. Kehr converted her second of two at the line and Laurel’s desperation heave came up short.
Kehr had 11 points and a game-high 14 rebounds to lead the Wildkats. Trista Cowen had 16 points on 7-of-9 shooting. Aspen Cotter led Laurel with 16, while younger sister Maeson had 10. Both teams struggled from the line, as Columbia Falls finished 10 of 25 and Laurel shot 11 of 19.
Saturday loser-out games