Lady Cougars earn first seed in district tournament
The Cougars have done it.
As the regular season came to a close last weekend, Columbus earned the top spot in the 4B district going into tournament time.
On Friday, the Cougars played in their last home game of the season against the Red Lodge Rams – a special night for the team’s five seniors, who all began the game together.
Columbus started slow, and after the first eight minutes were down 11-9. The Cougars continued to push, though, and by halftime, Columbus gained the 18-17 lead.
The game remained tight throughout the third, and entering the final quarter, the Cougars still led by one point. The Columbus offense broke free in the final minutes, going on a 17-4 run to win the game 45-31.
Senior Camryn Ault led the team with 11 points, followed by junior Alexa Riveland with nine. Maddi Carman, a senior, and Brenna Rouane, a sophomore, each contributed six points.
Ault also led the Cougars with five rebounds. Riveland put up seven assists and five steals.
Coach Jeromey Burke commended the play of both girls, saying that Ault “made a couple big shots that got us going in the game,” while Riveland’s “fourth quarter really helped us get some separation.”
He also mentioned two key aspects of the game in which the Cougars did well: rebounds and turnovers. The rebound margin was one – Red Lodge had 37 boards and Columbus had 36. Burke was very happy his team was able to stay even with a tall, athletic Rams squad.
Burke said his team “really took care of the ball,” ending the game with only seven turnovers, the lowest number of turnovers the team has had in a single game all season.
With a win in the final district game of the season, the Cougars secured the outright regular season championship with an 8-2 conference record, which Burke said “the girls worked extremely hard to secure all year long.”
Saturday, Columbus traveled to Three Forks to take on Class B’s number-one ranked Wolves.
The Cougars came out slow, and the Wolves were able to build a 15-2 lead after the first quarter. Columbus fought back in the second, but Three Forks kept pace, and going into halftime, the Wolves were up 29-17.
Coming out of the break, the Cougars again struggled to spark the offense, and Three Forks continued to roll, going on a 14-5 run. A stronger fourth quarter for Columbus was not enough to overcome the deficit, and Three Forks won 60-34.
Burke acknowledged that the team dug itself a hole early, but he was proud the girls were able to fight back, and he noted that the Cougars had an opportunity to cut the Wolves’ lead to single digits before half.
“I think the main take-away we had from that game is that we actually can play with arguably the best team in the state, but we have to play up to their level,” the Columbus coach explained. “They won’t falter and play down to your level if you don’t show up for four quarters.”
This week, the 4B district tournament will take place in Huntley on Thursday through Saturday, Feb. 15-17.
As the first seed, the Cougars have earned a first-round bye. Columbus will face the winner of the Red Lodge-Shepherd game on Friday at 2 p.m.
Burke said that last year’s tournament “showed that anything can happen, and [the team] knows we need to reset and refocus on some new goals.”
A win in the first game would land the Cougars in the championship game on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. This is the team’s goal, as only the two teams in the championship game earn a place at the Southern B divisional tournament.
RPR AND PARK CITY
Friday was an important game for the RPR Renegades. Not only was it one of the last opportunities to grab a regular season win to impact the season record, but it was also an away rivalry game against the Park City Panthers.
As for the Panthers, on the line for Park City was the final game of the regular season, which also happened to be senior night.
The home team came out strong, and RPR struggled with turnovers early in the game. At the end of the first quarter, Park City held a 10-6 lead.
Defense controlled the second quarter, with plenty of steals and forced turnovers by both teams. With about three minutes left in the half, RPR had fought back to tie the game at 13. By the break, the Renegades took control of the lead, up 18-14.
For the entire second half, the game was a battle. RPR would score, and Park City would answer. With three and a half minutes left in the third quarter, the Renegades entered bonus, while the team had one foul of its own. RPR would shoot free throws for each foul in the last quarter and a half, an advantage that would impact the outcome.
Going into the fourth quarter, RPR had a four-point lead. The Renegades continued to make baskets, and the shots from the Panthers would not fall, stretching the RPR lead to eight points entering the last five minutes. By the time the clock read 1:30, two Park City starters had fouled out, but the Panthers were not out of the game.
With 39 seconds left, junior Blakely Verke made a shot to bring Park City within two points, down 34-32. With about 20 seconds remaining in the game, Renegade sophomore Carlee Blodgett made two free throws after being fouled. The Panthers’ comeback was stopped short, and RPR won the game 36-32.
On the Park City side, junior Alyx Grabowska led the team with eight points. Verke and sophomore Hayley Story each put up seven, and junior Breanne Smith contributed four points.
Panther Coach Michelle Gauthier felt her team had a great first quarter, as the girls boxed out and passed well. The slow second quarter hurt the team, though, and Gauthier mentioned that while Park City was able to battle back, the team came up short.
For RPR, Blodgett had a good game, leading the team with 16 points. Senior Brittany Albers scored nine, and Nynah Bryant, the team’s other senior, had seven points.
The Renegades had their senior night on Saturday in Rapelje against Broadview-Lavina.
RPR came out ready to play from tipoff, and at the end of the first quarter, the Renegades had a four-point advantage. A 20-point second quarter for RPR helped the Renegades extend the lead and go into halftime up 32-21.
Despite a close second half, RPR was able to maintain the first half lead, cruising to a 46-30 final score.
Bryant lead the Renegades with 16 points, followed by junior Mercedes Hoff with 10. Blodgett scored eight points.
RPR enters the district tournament on a six-game win streak, an especially impressive feat considering the team was 3-8 through the first month and a half of the season.
The district tournament will be held in Red Lodge from Wednesday through Saturday this week.
The Renegades faced a tough opponent in the team’s first-round game. RPR played the Absarokee Huskies Wednesday evening. As of press time, the game had not yet been completed.
A win would see the Renegades face the winner of the Harlowton-Roberts game Friday evening at 6 p.m. An RPR loss would result in the Renegades facing the loser of the Harlow-Roberts game in a loser-out situation Friday at 11 a.m.
Park City is on the opposite side of the bracket, and will play its first post-season game on Thursday at 4 p.m. against the Bridger Scouts.
A Panther win will mean Park City would play the winner of the Plenty Coups-Broadview/Lavina game Friday night at 7:30 p.m. A first-round loss for the Panthers would mean a loser-out game Friday at 12:30 p.m. against the Plenty Coups-Broadview/Lavina loser.
Gauthier said her team has the tools and skills to beat Bridger, and she is excited for another chance for the Panthers to prove themselves.
Park City is looking forward to tournament time as a whole new season, and Gauthier mentioned the team’s motto is “Pound the Rock,” and she knows that “one of these nights the flood gates are going to open up for us if we just keep pounding the rock!”
The Huskies also held a senior night game last Friday, as the team faced the Roberts Rockets. The Huskies came out of the gates with an offensive fire, putting up a 20-point first quarter. A strong second quarter put Absarokee up 36-6 at half.
The Absarokee defense held Roberts to a scoreless third quarter to seal the Huskies’ 51-8 victory.
Junior Makensi McCally led the Absarokee offense with 12 points. Mallorey Sheppard, also a junior, put up 10, and senior Rebecka Lester scored eight points.
On Saturday, the Huskies traveled to play a very strong Plenty Coups team in the last game of the regular season.
Absarokee stayed with Plenty Coups for the first quarter, but a slow second gave the Lady Warriors a 28-13 halftime lead.
Coming out of the break, the Huskies found an offensive spark, and Absarokee cut the Plenty Coups lead to 11 points going into the final minutes of the game. The Lady Warrior offense surged ahead in the fourth to hold on to the lead for a 50-34 victory.
Sheppard led the Huskies with nine points, followed by senior Hana Kelly with eight. McCally put up six points.
Absarokee faced RPR in the first round of districts Wednesday evening. During the regular season, the teams split the two games in which they played each other.
A win on Wednesday means the Huskies would face the Harlowton-Roberts winner on Friday at 6 p.m. An Absarokee loss to RPR would result in the Huskies playing the loser of the Harlowton-Roberts game in a loser-out matchup Friday morning at 11 a.m.
With a pair of wins last weekend, the Park City Panthers solidified their place at the front of the 6C District.
On Friday, Park City played county rival RPR on the Panthers’ senior night.
Park City came out with a lot of intensity, moving at such a pace that the Renegades were caught off-balance. The Panther defense was tight, taking advantage of RPR mistakes, and the Park City offense was quick to score after regaining possession. The Panthers went on a 14-0 run for the first five minutes of the game before the Renegades were able to score their first basket.
At the end of the first quarter, Park City held a 14-6 lead. In the second, the Panther offense continued to roll while RPR shots failed to fall. Going into halftime, Park City was up 31-15.
The second half began where the first left off. The Panthers continued to play consistently as the Renegades struggled to find a rhythm. In the end, Park City notched a 62-32 victory.
Senior Rylan Gauthier led the Panthers with an impressive 26 points, shooting over 50 percent from the field. Junior Connor McNeil put up 14, and senior Talon Johnstone scored nine.
Johnstone led the team with 10 rebounds, followed by junior Austin Popp with six. McNeil grabbed five boards.
Park City Coach Ben Southworth was pleased with his team’s tough performance against a “very good” RPR team. He was especially proud of Park City’s defense, saying, “People tend to overlook defense, but that is something we are really trying to improve on and that is keeping us in many games when our shooting hasn’t been the best.”
Southworth highlighted the play of junior Tristen Johnstone, who held one of the conference’s top scorers, Renegade senior Trevor Herzog, to under 20 points. As a team, Southworth noted that the Panthers held three RPR starters scoreless for the game.
With Park City’s two seniors, Gauthier and Talon Johnstone, finishing their last home game, Southworth described how valuable they are to the team.
“These young men are not only leaders on the court, but also off the court,” he explained, noting they are both excellent students as well as athletes.
“They come every day looking to work, and they hold themselves, as well as everyone else on the team, accountable,” Southworth said. “I am very fortunate to be able to coach these young men.”
On the RPR side of the game, the team was led by Herzog with 17 points. Junior Tristan Gieser put up eight points, and senior Payton Severin had seven.
Friday’s game was tough for the Renegades, and Coach Jerry Thompson explained that “Park City is a very good defensive team, and we had a difficult time executing our offense.”
The fix is simple. Thompson noted that “we need to execute better and play with more confidence if we are going to beat good teams.”
Park City finished the regular season in Fromberg Saturday night. The Panthers had a big first half, putting up 25 points in the first quarter and 20 in the second to set up a 45-22 halftime lead. Park City continued to roll in the second half, scoring 26 more points to cruise to a 71-39 victory.
Talon Johnstone led the team with 20 points, followed closely by Gauthier with 19. McNeil scored 11.
Southworth was glad for the last win of the season, saying that Fromberg is an improving team, and the Falcons’ poor record does not indicate the amount of talent on the team.
With the win over Fromberg, the Panthers ended the regular season in first place for the district, with a 14-1 conference record and 16-2 overall record.
To start this week’s district tournament in Red Lodge, Park City played Roberts to kick-off postseason play Wednesday morning. The Panthers won, 65-24. They will now face RPR, the winner of the Wednesday afternoon game, on Thursday at 6 p.m.
Southworth believes any team could win the tournament, and with several teams having postseason experience, and others gaining momentum at the right time, it could come down to whoever puts together the most-complete games for the next four days.
He said the Panthers know the regular season and tournaments are two separate seasons, and the team is looking forward to the week’s challenge.
Following Friday’s loss to Park City, the Renegades rebounded on Saturday for the team’s own senior night.
RPR found an offensive spark immediately, and scored 29 points in the first quarter behind nine three-pointers. A 15-2 run in the second quarter gave the Renegades a 44-8 lead at halftime.
The RPR offense came out from the break slow, and Broadview-Lavina was able to cut the Renegade lead to 20 points. RPR finished the game strong, with a 24-point fourth quarter to secure a 76-45 win.
Senior John Schladweiler had a huge game, putting up 28 points to led the team. Herzog added 20, and senior Derek Peterson contributed 17.
The Renegades shot very well from behind the arc - as a team RPR made 18 three-point shots. Schladweiler led the charge with eight three-pointers, followed by Peterson with five and Herzog with four.
Thompson not only mentioned the Renegades’ strong offensive outing, but he noted his team played very strong defense, led by Severin, Gieser, and senior Dylan Blodgett.
RPR’s play notably improved from Friday, and Thompson explained that “Saturday against Broadview-Lavina, we came out more relaxed and played with more emotion.”
The Renegades ended the regular season third in the conference with a 10-5 conference record and 12-6 overall record.
To begin the postseason, RPR faced Harlowton Wednesday afternoon. Thompson was expecting a tough game from what he anticipated would be a well-prepared Engineers team. In the end, the Renegades won, 44-27. They will now face Park City Thursday evening at 6 p.m.
Thompson expects the tournament to be very competitive, and said his team will have to enter with a positive attitude and play with the passion and emotion that was evident Saturday night.
The Cougars performed well in the final home game of the season, bringing home a 62-41 win on senior night. Columbus was led by senior Brandon Horton with 11 points.
Assistant Coach Cory Hansen said the Cougars played well, and almost the entire roster contributed to the win. As for the team’s seniors, Hansen said they are “a quality group of young men, and the coaching staff was happy to see a victory on their behalf for all their hard work for the season.”
To finish the regular season, Columbus traveled to Three Forks to play the third-ranked Class B team in the state.
The Wolves came out strong, creating an 11-point lead coming out of the first quarter. The Cougars competed well for the next three quarters, but Three Forks was able to add to the lead in the second half for a 66-43 non-conference win.
Senior Kenneth Smith led Columbus with 11 points, followed by Horton with 10 points. Sophomores Ricky Preece and Trey Stampfel each added nine.
The game started out well, according to Hansen, but turnovers began to catch up to the Cougars, and Three Forks was able to capitalize and extend the lead.
Hansen felt the season as a whole was a learning experience, and going forward Columbus looks to improve on the turnover ratio that plagued them throughout the year. In the future, the young Cougar team hopes to work on their physical presence.
In this week’s district tournament, the Cougars will face the home team, Huntley Project, on Thursday evening at 5:30 p.m. A win would see Columbus play Roundup Friday evening. A loss on Thursday would send the Cougars to a loser-out game Saturday morning in Shepherd.
Hansen said Columbus is looking forward to the tournament, and the Cougars are hoping to knock off a top-seeded team this week.
The Huskies came out and gave it their all on senior night last Friday against the Roberts Rockets.
The game opened with an offensive battle between the two teams. At the end of the first quarter, the Rockets had the lead, 19-14. In the second quarter the Huskies began to chip away at the lead, and by halftime Roberts was ahead by only two points.
Absarokee came back from the break ready to play, but the Roberts offense stalled out. A 21-2 third quarter run captured the lead for the Huskies, and they never gave it back. After a close fourth quarter, Absarokee earned a 60-45 victory.
The Huskies were led by senior Joaquin Pilcher with 21 points. Sophomore Zacc Degele put up nine points, and seniors Roman Zugaza and Tyler Planichek each contributed eight.
Absarokee Coach Gregg Feddes was pleased with the way his team played, and he explained, “Roberts came in ready to go, and we did a good job adjusting and taking away some of the things that were scoring.”
On Saturday, the Huskies traveled to Plenty Coups to face a very good Warriors team. The Plenty Coups offense was efficient from tipoff, and by the end of the first quarter had a 24-14 lead. Both offenses slowed in the second, and going into halftime, the Warriors were up 39-21.
In the second half, the Huskies played well, putting up 39 points, but they were unable to catch up to Plenty Coups. The Warriors won the high-scoring game 92-60.
Pilcher had a good game, leading the team with 23 points. Zugaza added 10, and Plainchek put up nine.
Feddes said that while the Plenty Coups game may have gotten away from Absarokee, the team’s effort was still very good, and the Huskies feel good about where they are going into tournament time.
The first team Absarokee was slated to face in the tournament was the Bridger Scouts on Wednesday evening. Feddes acknowledged that Bridger is a good team, saying, “We will have our work cut out for us, but we are excited for the challenge.”
As of press time, the game had not yet occurred. A win on Wednesday would lead to the Huskies playing the winner of the Plenty Coups-Broadview/Lavina game Thursday night. If Absarokee lost to Bridger, the Huskies would move to the loser-out game against the loser of the Plenty Coups-Broadview/Lavina matchup.
Feddes had a good thought for everyone to keep in mind this week: “The best part about tournament time is anything can happen.”