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Pirates tune up for divisional run with 88-50 win over Chiefs

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POLSON — A slow start in both halves doomed the Polson Pirates in a showdown with the Columbia Falls Wildcats Thursday night, but they found their offense in a big way on Saturday night as Polson rumbled past Ronan in the regular season finale.

The Wildcats took an early lead Thursday night, but three-pointers by Vince DiGiallonardo and Sheldon Fisher kept Polson close. But as Columbia Falls continued hit jumpers, the Pirates struggled to score against Columbia Falls' 1-3-1 defense, falling behind 16-8 at the end of the first quarter.

"We shot the ball really poorly. Some of that was them showing us a 1-3-1 (zone defense) for the first time. We tried to adjust on the fly, but it's hard to do stuff you don't practice," Polson head coach Brad Pluff explained. "Consequently our offense was real stagnant. We didn't get a lot of good looks and then we didn't make many of the ones we did get."

Kyle Bagnell and Louis Mohr led an early charge in the second quarter, with Mohr stealing the ball and feeding Bagnell for a three-ball. Then 30 second later Bagnell returned the favor by stealing the ball and dishing to Mohr for a bucket underneath the basket to trim the Wildcats' lead to four (18-14) just 1:45 into the second frame.

That sparked a nice offensive run for Polson, including a three by Tim Rausch, an offensive board by Rausch with a dish to Bagnell for a bucket underneath and a Bagnell free throw that tied the game at 24-24 with 2:18 remaining in the first half.

Polson took a one-point lead (27-26) with a three-pointer by DiGiallonardo at the 1:08 mark before Columbia Falls sank five straight free throws to take a 31-29 lead into halftime.

In the third quarter, Polson's offense went flat again, allowing Columbia Falls to go on a non-distinct 17-9 run that got everybody involved. The Wildcats hit a cutter here and made a jumper there and, mostly, hit their free throws and took a 48-38 lead into the fourth.

In the fourth, Polson struggled to find the bottom of the net early but managed to cut Columbia Falls' lead to seven (50-43) two minutes into the final quarter. But turnovers and missed buckets let the Wildcats rebuild the lead to 11. Mohr warmed up and hit three jumpers and two free throws over the final three minutes, but it was too little, too late for the Pirates.

The Wildcats hit 15 of 16 free throws in the fourth quarter to counter the Pirates' late run and secure the 67-55 win. 

Mohr led Polson with 16 points, eight rebounds and four assists, while Bagnell scored 13 and had seven steals. 

Polson shot just 11-for-40 from inside the arc for a disappointing 27 percent.

"We shot poorly but we still had a chance," Pluff noted. "At halftime we felt pretty good ... we thought we'd shoot better. But they came out and made that run and then it was just an uphill battle from there."

Pluff said he didn't expect the 1-3-1 defense, which his team hadn't practiced against very much.

"They played a 1-2-2 on us in Columbia Falls. They did a good job of guarding Louis (Mohr) on the high post and finding Kyle (Bagnell)," Pluff said. "Hopefully, we'll make the right adjustments and get a good game plan when we, hopefully, play them again (at divisionals)." 

It was a disappointing loss for the Pirates and they took it out on the Ronan Chiefs Saturday night. 

The Pirates came out playing like their hair was on fire against the Chiefs, exploding for 55 points in the first half. Polson found post Tyler Krell early and often, taking advantage of his size at the low post. Krell put up a career-high 22 points, including a 4-for-5 performance at the line.

"That's really good," coach Pluff understated. "Tyler's a lot bigger than anybody they have. Once we started scoring inside they started collapsing (on defense) and opening up the outside shot ... and all our shooters were clicking, which makes my job pretty easy."

The Pirates were clicking for sure and they weren't missing much, either as they hit almost everything from the outside. 

DiGiallonardo set the tone early as he hit four three-pointers for all 12 of his points in the first half.

"Those shots really opened it up for us," Pluff noted.

Polson's defense also created a lot of opportunities to score.

"We pressed both half-court and full-court, mostly on that 1-3-1 half-court trap. It created some turnovers and easy shots for us ... we shot a lot of layups," Pluff said. 

The Chiefs made an 18-point run in the third, but couldn't match Polson's 19 and the Pirates cruised to the 88-50 win.

Krell finished with 22 points and Bagnell hit for 21, busting three of six three-point attempts and five of six two-pointers. Mohr had a good overall night with 14 points, seven rebounds and eight assists. Sheldon Fisher also popped for 11 points and stole three balls. 

The Pirates shot 59 percent from the floor, that included making 11 of 22 three-point attempts. 

"That may have been our best shooting out of the year," Pluff said, noting it was a good finish to the regular season. "Tyler Krell is just getting better and better. He's our most-improved player and coming along at the right time. He and Louis (Mohr) have led us in rebounds lately ... and Louis doing a little of everything for us."

Polson finished the regular season 5-3 in conference and 10-8 overall to earn the second seed in this weekend's Northwestern A Divisional Tournament at Glacier High School in Kalispell. After a first round bye, the Polson boys will take on third-seed Libby on Friday night at 8 p.m. in a semifinal matchup. A win puts them in the championship game and a good shot at qualifying for the state tournament.


Columbia Falls 67, Polson 55
C. Falls 16 15 17 19–67
Polson 8 21 9 17–55

C. FALLS - Devyn Rocker 3, Kyle Howell 10, Nick Emerson 14, Tim Spencer 2, Austin Barth 7, Mitchell Wassam 15, Kaleb Johnson 6, Michael Williams 10.
POLSON - Vince DiGiallonardo 6, Kyle Bagnell 13, Sheldon Fisher 3, Tim Rausch 6, Louis Mohr 16, Derrick Rathe 2, Tyler Krell 9. 

Polson 88, Ronan 50
Ronan 14 10 18 8–50
Polson 27 28 19 14–88

RONAN - Jerod Tanner 12, Gordon North Piegan 2, Marcus Hungerford 5, Lucus Black 1, Justin Dusty Bull 17, Kevin Wroblewski 11, Colten Cheff 2.

POLSON - Vince DiGiallonardo 12, Kyle Bagnell 21, Ian Laimbeer 4, Sheldon Fisher 11, Tim Rausch 2, Louis Mohr 14, Will Davey 2, Tyler Krell 22.

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