By Derek Hendrickson
The Columbia Falls Lady Wildcats were tested but emerged victorious in the first semifinal of the Western A Divisional, knocking off the Dillon Lady Beavers 51-45 Friday at the Butte Civic Center. Stat sheet
A strong start helped Columbia Falls hang on as they built leads of 13-4 late in the first and 22-10 at the break.
Lady Beaver sophomore Brynley Fitzgerald came out a girl on a mission as she threw in 5 point in the first thirty seconds of the second half and had the first 8 Dillon points in the third.
Momentum kept changing hands but the Lady Beavers finally caught up when Fitzgerald canned 1 of 2 free throws to make it 39 all. Shortly before that the Civic Center exploded as Dillon fans celebrated two huge three balls by Alex Rouse. The first capped a 7 point run and the second got them within a point.
Columbia Falls never gave up the lead or lost their composure, which has helped the Wildcats earn their now 19-1 record.
After being tied for the first and only time of the game the Lady Wildcats got consecutive three point plays as Peyton Kehr started it and then Ellie Johnson finished the run.
Dillon didn’t go away as Rouse drilled another to cut the lead back to 3 but six straight free throws sealed the game. Fitzgerald hit a late three for the final points as she finished with 22, 16 coming in the second half. Rouse added 14 but no other Lady Beaver was able to manage more than three.
Columbia Falls got 3 players to double digits as Kehr had 19, Johnson 14 and Kiara Burlage added 12 to go with a game leading 10 boards.
The Lady Wildcats advance to the Championship and await the winner of Butte Central and Frenchtown, the night’s last game. Columbia Falls guaranteed themselves a spot in the State A Tournament two weeks from now in Belgrade.
Dillon, 13-7, still has a chance to advance as they move to the consolation semifinals and a game against conference rival and defending State Champion Hamilton tomorrow morning. That game is scheduled for a 9:45 a.m. tipoff at the Civic Center.