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Wildcats pounce on Loggers' mistakes

The Western News | January 12, 2021 7:00 AM

Despite mounting aggressive half-court traps and full-court presses, Libby couldn’t stop the offensive onslaught mounted by Columbia Falls.

The Wildcats mauled the Loggers 61-52 during a Jan. 8 matchup. The loss leaves the Libby High School boys varsity with a 0-2 record for the season.

Junior TJ Andersen was the Loggers’ top scorer with 15 points. Sophomore Ryder Davis was close behind with 12.

Wildcat junior Cade Morgan sunk five three-pointers and led Columbia Falls with 17 points.

The Loggers fell behind in the opening minutes of the game due to errors; two Libby turnovers allowed Columbia Falls to score fast-breaks. Libby coach Josh Bean called a time-out to reset his squad.

“We weren't doing what we were supposed to be doing,” Bean said. “We weren’t running the ball, taking care of the ball, getting back in defensive transition to protect the basket.”

Libby responded by ratcheting up their defensive pressure. The move worked and by the end of the first quarter the score was 10-10. For the rest of the game, however, Bean said turnovers and loose balls provided the Wildcats with too many easy opportunities to score.

“We were sloppy with the ball,” said junior Caden Williams after the game.

By halftime, the Wildcats had widened their lead to 23-18.

In the third quarter, Libby upped the pressure with a half-court trap defense. Bean said the Loggers had trouble locating the shooters and let Columbia Falls move the ball to the corner on straight passes.

“In the 1-3-1 you got to try and make them throw the ball over you so then you can rotate,” he said. “We weren’t doing that well, we didn’t close out well.”

The straight passes allowed the Wildcats to rack up three three-pointers in the third quarter. The Loggers also surrendered an easy shot inside off an offensive rebound.

To stop the bleeding, Bean called a time out. At the time, the Loggers were down by 11 and Bean hoped to get back into the game by playing man defense.

The Wildcats, however, continued to shoot well from the perimeter and the free-throw line.

Confronting Columbia Falls’ zone defense proved to be a challenge for Libby. The Wildcat’s scheme forced the Loggers to shoot the ball from beyond the three-point line. While Davis, Stevenson, Beagle and Andersen each sank a three-pointer, two came within the last 15 seconds of the game.

“That doesn’t do you any good at that time unless you’re in a close game,” said Bean.

In an attempt to generate more turnovers, the Loggers switched into a full-court press in the fourth quarter.

Playing aggressive defense, Andersen and Williams — Libby’s two 6-foot-4-inch players — got into foul trouble near the end of the game. Bean said this limited Loggers in the fourth quarter but he commended the efforts of the players who came off the bench.

“Cy Stevenson did a nice job tonight, Keilen [Rausch] did a nice job coming in providing good minutes off the bench playing defense,” he said.

Going into their Jan. 9 game against Browning, Bean said the Loggers would be focused on taking care of the ball and slowing the game down. Browning’s up-and-down style is known for wearing teams down.

“We can’t get into a track meet against Browning,” Bean said. “It won’t be good for us.”

Libby beat Browning 48-45 in the away game.

The Loggers will go on to play Ronan at home on Jan. 14.