Chiefs fall to top-ranked Wildcats
RONAN — The Ronan Chiefs got a clear idea of where they want to be last weekend, but it was a tough lesson to learn.
After a hard-fought 66-52 loss in Bigfork Thursday, the Chiefs returned home for a Friday night battle against Columbia Falls, the top-ranked Class A team in the state. And it didn't take long for the Wildcats to justify that ranking as they ran away with a 67-35 win.
Early leads by the opponents set up both losses.
On Thursday, the Vikings jumped out to a 20-6 lead and extended it to 34-14 at the half. Although Bigfork employed a half-court trap against the Chiefs, it didn't create the turnovers the Vikings hoped for.
"We played pretty good, actually. They half-court trapped us but we did a great job of breaking it," Ronan head coach Steve Woll explained.
Ronan's problem was there was a lid on the bucket. The Chiefs hit just four of 17 two-point attempts in the first half.
"We weren't turning the ball over or anything. We were shootin' bunnies and missing ... the most unbelievable thing," Woll explained.
The Chiefs came back with a 15-point third quarter and actually cut Bigfork's lead to four in the second half before the Vikings pulled away, with the help of 19-for-28 shooting from the line. The Chiefs hit just 5-for-15 at the charity stripe.
Justin Dusty Bull led Ronan with 11 points and Jerod Tanner hit for 10. Lucus Black also scored 10 points and had three steals, while Marcus Hungerford had seven rebounds to go with six points.
"We played hard and pretty well at times. We had a chance to make a run, but we just couldn't get some shots to fall and we didn't do well enough at the line," Woll said. "We did some good things, though ... We're getting better."
After getting a taste of competition from one of the better Class B teams in the west, the Chiefs got a real feel for the best of Class A from Columbia Falls.
Being a little leg-tired from Thursday's game didn't help as the Chiefs fell behind quickly to the Wildcats 17-4 in the first quarter. Columbia Falls kept running in the second with a 22-9 run and a 39-13 halftime lead.
Ronan did scored 15 in the third, but there was little doubt of the outcome as Columbia Falls did everything well and cruised to the 67-35 win.
Dusty Bull led Ronan with 11 points and Jerod Tanner finished with eight points and two steals.
"They're not ranked number one in the state for nothing. We knew it was going to be a challenge coming in. But we wanted to measure ourselves against them because that's where we want to be someday," coach Woll said. "We ran out of gas a little due to the night before in Bigfork. But they are just long and big and can shoot and execute well. They're the real deal."
Ronan will host a Thursday game against Class AA Big Sky on Thursday and a doubleheader against Mission on Saturday. The Chiefs will have a busy set of practices to try to get back on a winning course.
"It's time to get back to basics," coach Woll noted.
Bigfork 66, Ronan 52
Ronan 6 8 15 23–52
Bigfork 20 14 14 18–66
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 10, Gordon North Piegan 5, Marcus Hungerford 6, Lucus Black 10, Justin Dusty Bull 11, Kevin Wroblewski 6, Colten Cheff 2.
BIGFORK - Carter Sorenson 9, Lael Richmond 8, Ian Lorang 2, Evan Jordt 16, Travis Knoll 9, Colter Trent 6, Keenan Evans 7, Dylan Fraley 4.
Columbia Falls 67, Ronan 35
C. Falls 17 22 16 12–67
Ronan 4 9 15 7–35
COLUMBIA FALLS - Kyle Howell 3, Nick Emerson 10, Anthony Correa 3, Tim Spencer 1, Austin Barth 14, Mitchell Wassam 17, Kaleb Johnson 6, Michael Williams 13.
RONAN - Jerod Tanner 8, Robbie Gauthier 2, Marcus Hungerford 3, Lucus Black 6, Justin Dusty Bull 11, Kevin Wroblewski 5.