Saturday, May 18, 2024

Loggers declaw Wildcats in 53-44 win

| February 11, 2022 7:00 AM

With the regular season winding down and three conference games remaining, in-conference wins take on added importance.

Conference standings decide opponents, times and locations ahead of the district tournament. The better record, the greater the reward (ideally).

The Libby Loggers took a positive step into receiving one of these rewards when they defeated the Columbia Falls Wildcats on the road Feb. 3. The Loggers walked off the court with a 53-44 victory.

Offensively, the game got off to a slow start. Columbia Falls controlled the opening tip and held the ball for a little over two minutes before attempting a shot. Both teams struggled to put points on the scoreboard.

“Earlier in the season when we played C-Falls we zoned them. We played zone defense the entire game,” said Libby coach Josh Bean. “Tonight, we played an aggressive man defense the entire game.”

Columbia Falls, by contrast, employed a 2-3 zone defense the entire game. Bean said the Wildcats added a few wrinkles to keep the Loggers on their toes.

“Coach [Chris] Finberg … does a great job of mixing up defenses,” Bean said. “He gives you a number of different looks out of their zone.”

Reflecting on the slow start, Bean said the two squads were feeling each other out.

“I think it took both teams a while to figure out how to best attack each other’s defenses,” he said.

The first quarter ended with the Wildcats leading the Loggers by a single point, 6-5.

With both teams seemingly settling in, the second quarter saw an increase in offensive production. Loggers and Wildcats traded baskets for much of the period.

Libby’s Tyler Andersen added two three-point shots and the Loggers scored on a lay-in at the quarter’s end. As the teams hit the locker room for halftime, the scoreboard read 23-21 in Columbia Falls’ favor.

The third quarter resembled its predecessor at its outset with both teams trading baskets and neither squad taking more than a three-point lead.

But at the three-minute mark, the Loggers’ offense took charge. Anderson connected on two more three-point shots and Libby made key defensive stops that were converted into points for the Loggers.

Ryan Collins hit a three-pointer. He attempted another shot that didn’t drop, but he was fouled. He nailed all three free throws and a six-point lead went to nine. That cemented the Loggers’ lead for the remainder of the game. Heading into the fourth quarter, Libby was up 41-32.

The early part of that last quarter saw both squads trading baskets and Libby holding on to its nine-point lead. Needing possessions, the Wildcats emerged from their zone defense to pressure the Logger ball handlers.

At the 3:30 mark, the Wildcats had cut the Loggers lead to six points. With time running down and Libby still ahead, Columbia Falls was forced to turn to fouls. Against the Loggers, who went eight for 11 from the free throw line during the final minutes, that strategy proved a mistake.

Overall, the Loggers hit 12 of 16 from the charity stripe. During the previous two games, the Loggers boasted a combined 37 out of 48 from the line.

Afterward, Bean said every player he sent onto the court aided in the win.

“A big victory, an important game,” he said. “Every kid that stepped on the floor contributed in some way. Defense, key baskets, free throws, rebounds — they all did something positive.”

Anderson led his teammates in scoring, netting 12. Caden Williams put up 10 while Ryan Collins scored nine. For Columbia Falls, Jace Hill came away with 15 while Alihn Anderson put up eight.

Libby’s record after the Columbia Falls game moved to 5-3 in conference action and 11-4 overall.

Libby 5 16 20 12 - 53

C-Falls 6 17 9 12 - 44