Chiefs test Wildcats, sink Vikings in overtime
RONAN — The Ronan Chiefs learned a lot about themselves last week in a split of two games.
Ronan lost a closer-than-the-score-says game in Columbia Falls Friday night, dropping a 61-49 game to Class A’s second-ranked Wildcats. Then on Saturday at home, the Chiefs shook off some tired legs and foul trouble to win an overtime thriller 62-56 over Class B’s second-ranked team, the Bigfork Vikings.
On Friday night, the Chiefs gave the Wildcats all they could handle. Ronan led Columbia Falls 13-12 through the first quarter before the Wildcats went on a 20-12 run in the second quarter that proved to be the difference in the game. Ronan stayed close but couldn’t quite get enough scoring to take the lead.
Seven Chiefs scored, led by Kevin Wroblewski with 14 points; he also had five steals, five rebounds and three assists.
Jerod Tanner also scored in double-figures with 10, plus he had three steals, three assists and five rebounds. Lucus Black was everywhere on the floor with seven points, six assists and six rebounds. Marcus Hungerford added four points and took two charges.
The biggest difference in the game was Columbia Falls going to the line 29 times, while Ronan got just seven trips to the free throw line.
“We felt that we had them on the ropes a couple times and just couldn’t quite get over the edge. It was a great measuring stick for us,” Ronan head coach Steve Woll said. “It was a lot closer than a 12-point game ... we had a chance to get them. They beat us by 32 last time and this time we cut it to 12. Last time we didn’t believe we could win, but this time we knew we could win. We left the Flathead Valley feeling good about ourselves.”
Woll said it was a great team effort, including some good bench play.
“When we’re successful, it’s the team. And we got good bench play up there, too,” Woll noted. “Robbie Gauthier came in to give us a lift and Brady Oakland gave us a lift, too. The next night Chris Clary comes in and gives us a lift. Our bench is getting deeper and our bench is getting more confident.”
That bench helped a ton against Bigfork the next night.
“We were spent from the night before. I asked our kids during the warm-ups if they were okay and they said ‘We’re great, we’re ready,’ ... and for the first two minutes we were,” coach Woll said. “But then it set in, and we were dead. We played the number twos in Class A and Class B on back-to-back nights. It’s draining because we have to go pedal to the metal for 32 minutes. We did okay, but we need to play a little smarter when we are ahead.”
The Chiefs fell behind by three but charged back in the fourth quarter to push it into overtime with a late jumper by Wroblewski. In overtime, Ronan kept scoring with balance, outscoring Bigfork 12-6 for the 62-56 non-conference win.
Eight Chiefs scored, led by Wroblewski’s 19 points and Justin Dusty Bull’s 12. Wroblewski also had five steals.
Black scored eight points, along with Gordon North Piegan. Black also had six rebounds, five assists and three steals. Tanner added six points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
“It was a great gut-check for us, and we found a way to win. We were down and in foul trouble, but we had young kids step up. Our execution was great the last two minutes. Even though our legs were shot, but we executed better down the stretch,” coach Woll said. It was also a good learning opportunity for his players to learn why they came out or rotated in for specific game situations. “The kids at first weren’t sure about why kids come out, but we explained why we do it for specific situations and they just kind of blended in nicely. It was a great learning experience for us.”
Now 6-11, 2-5 in conference, the Chiefs will finish out the regular season with a valley rivalry game in Polson Saturday night — the girls play at 6 p.m., followed by the boys’ game at about 7:30.
“They beat us by nine the first time (54-45), but we’re different teams now,” Woll said of the Pirates. “Both teams like to get up and down the floor. They have the best offensive team in the conference, with seven kids who can hit for 20 on any given night. We’ll have to really look at our defensive scheme. But, it’s really like two teams playing each other for the first time.”
Columbia Falls 61, Ronan 49
Ronan 13 12 11 13–49
C. Falls 12 20 14 15–61
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 10, Gordon North Piegan 2, Marcus Hungerford 4, Lucus Black 7, Justin Dusty Bull 8, Kevin Wroblewski 14, Brady Oakland 4.
C. FALLS - Kyle Howell 22, Nick Emerson 10, Chris King 1, Tim Spencer 3, Austin Barth 14, Mitchell Wassam 7, Michael Williams 4.
Ronan 62, Bigfork 56 OT
Bigfork 17 13 10 10 6–56
Ronan 15 14 8 13 12–62
BIGFORK - Lael Richmond 9, Ian Lorang 10, Evan Jordt 13, Travis Knoll 7, Cody Dopps 2, Christian Ker 12, Keenan Evans 3.
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 6, Gordon North Piegan 8, Robbie Gauthier 2, Marcus Hungerford 3, Lucus Black 8, Justin Dusty Bull 12, Kevin Wroblewski 19, Colten Cheff