The Cut Bank Wolves put together a great weekend of basketball when it mattered the most to punch their ticket to the Northern B Divisional Tournament this weekend in Malta. Cut Bank opens tournament play at 6:30 p.m. against District 2-B Champion, the Wolves of Wolf Point.
Cut Bank began last week’s tournament action Thursday evening with a 55-45 loss to Rocky Boy. Nerves were an issue early as both teams struggled to take care of the ball and didn’t shoot very well. Rocky Boy held a slim 19-16 halftime lead.
“We were just a little nervous and turned the ball over too many times. The shots we did get just didn’t fall,” said Coach Josh Larson. The Stars got hot in the fourth quarter and came away with the win.
“We just couldn’t get going offensively. We were getting the stops we needed, we just couldn’t get our shots to fall,” said Larson.
Senior guard Hayden Harrell led the Wolves in scoring with 16 points. He was followed by Devin Gobert 12, Coalter Littrell 5, Dayne Barbie 5, Justin Crowe 2, Dawson Vasboe 2, Cody Racki 2, and Chevy Burdeau 1. The Wolves received a bye in the loser-out round on Friday.
Saturday morning the Wolves faced the Choteau Bulldogs for a trip to next weekend’s divisional tournament on the line. Both teams came out firing from the tip. Choteau guard, Acton Snyder, hit four quick three-pointers to give the Bulldogs a slight edge.
Cut Bank responded in similar fashion with the hot shooting of senior guard Justin Crowe.
“Justin was due for a big game. He really played well in this game and he got hot and kept us in the game when Choteau couldn’t miss,” said Larson. Another late three pointer by Dawson Vasboe pushed the Wolves lead to 23-16 after the first quarter.
The pace continued to be frantic in the second quarter as Snyder continued his hot shooting. He finished the half with 23 points and cut the Wolves’ lead to just three heading into the second half.
The third quarter belonged to the Bulldogs as they, again, found the range from long distance. “We were just trying to stay in the game. They were shooting the ball well and we had a hard time getting some shots to fall. We were just trying to stay aggressive as they had some key players in foul trouble. We thought if we continued to be aggressive we could attack as their defenders couldn’t apply the pressure they usually do because of fouls,” said Larson.
Cut Bank kept it close heading into the fourth quarter, trailing 51-48. Choteau pushed their lead to six points half way through the third quarter before Littrell, Harrell, and Gobert took over. Littrell got his hand on a Harrell missed layup tipping it into the hands of Gobert. Gobert converted the extra possession into a three-point play.
“It changed the whole game. Coalter played so hard and gave our team so many extra chances. Those plays don’t get enough credit. That’s just who Coalter is. He plays hard the whole game,” praised Larson.
Another three-point play from Vasboe gave the Wolves the momentum for good. Cody Racki played great defense down the stretch. Multiple baskets by Harrell and Gobert and some key free throws from Crowe put Cut Bank back into the divisional tournament, winning 74-71.
Gobert led a balanced scoring attack with 22 points. Rounding out the scoring was Harrell 21, Crowe 13, Vasboe 9, Littrell 5, Racki 2, and Barbie 2.
Cut Bank had just under two hours to regroup. Another date with Rocky Boy awaited, this time with a third place trophy on the line.
Both teams continued to shoot the ball well throughout the first half. Cut Bank was able to establish both Barbie and Littrell down low and the score was tied 28-28.
“Dayne played his best offensive game of the season. We’ve made it a big priority to get him touches down low and he took advantage of those touches,” said Larson. Both teams played hard to the finish.
With the game tied late in the fourth quarter, the Wolves came up empty on two straight possessions, thus having to foul. Rocky Boy was solid from the free throw line, winning 66-60.
Gobert, again, led Cut Bank in scoring with 25 points. Rounding out the scoring for the Wolves were Harrell 17, Barbie 11, and Littrell 7.
“I’m really proud of these kids. We’ve been getting closer and closer all season long and to advance to the divisional tournament is very big for us. Hopefully we can ride this momentum and make some noise in Malta this weekend,” concluded Larson.