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Written by The Herald-News Saturday, 03 March 2012 17:08
No one ever said following up on a perfect, undefeated season would be easy, and the Plentywood Wildcats made sure of that, defeating the defending state champion Wolves at the district 2B tourney to give Wolf Point an unfavorable seed at divisionals and ending Wolf Point’s season a week later with another Wildcat win at divisionals.
The two post-season losses to Plentywood followed a six-overtime marathon affair at the Wolves’ Den on Jan. 20 in which the Wolves finally prevailed, 68-63, and a 57-46 win at Plentywood on Dec. 16 before the Wolves shot themselves in the foot with the loss of six players due to disciplinary reasons in early January after a police probe of a New Year’s Eve team event.
The Wolves finished the season with a 16-7 record that included a 2-3 postseason record, following a perfect 25-0 season and state championship in 2010-11.
Fairfield, which beat Wolf Point in the first round at divisionals, fell to Malta 44-38 Saturday in the divisional championship game as both Fairfield and Malta advanced to the state tourney in Bozeman to be played March 1-3.
Wolves vs. Fairfield
Wolf Point opened divisional action at Malta in promising fashion against Fairfield on Feb. 23, jumping out to a 12-4 lead after the first quarter.
Fairfield employed a full-court press from the outset, and both teams shot poorly early on, resulting in a 4-4 tie midway through the opening frame.
The Wolves made some long passes to break Fairfield’s press, resulting in Fairfield fouls and a free throw from sophomore Tukker Toavs and 3-point play from freshman Hayden Hanks that made it 8-4 Wolves.
Toavs then scored inside and Hayden Hanks was fouled again on a fastbreak, sinking both free throws to make it 12-4 Wolves and igniting the Wolf Point fans that had traveled to Malta hoping to witness an upset.
Both teams got cold in the final 2 minutes of the first quarter, which ended with Wolf Point up 12-4.
Fairfield’s big man, senior Bo Harris, shook off his shooting woes with a spin move and a bucket early in the second quarter to make it 12-6.
The Wolves committed a turnover on the inbound pass as Fairfield senior Collin Allen scored inside to make it 12-8 Wolves.
The Wolf Point fans let out a collective moan when Toavs missed an open inside shot and the Fairfield fans became invigorated when senior Trace Brady got open over the middle for a jumpshot that made it 12-10 Wolves with 5:32 left in the second quarter.
Wolf Point junior Easton Copenhaver sank a couple of free throws and Hayden Hanks dropped one in as well, as the Wolves went up 15-10.
Harris answered with a bucket over Toavs and then a jumper to make it 15-14 Wolves before the most pivotal play of the game midway through the second quarter that started a Fairfield run from which the Wolves would not recover.
With Fairfield still pressing, Harris intercepted a Wolf Point pass and threw the ball onto the court as the 6-foot-3-inch multi-sport talent went flying into the scorer’s table.
Brady made the effort worth the trouble as he sank a 3-pointer with 4:03 left in the second quarter to make it 17-15 Fairfield and give the Eagles their first lead of the game after losing a 3-1 lead early in the first quarter.
The scoring pace of the game increased rapidly with Toavs hitting an inside shot to knot it 17-17 with 3:54 to go in the first half.
Brady then hit a 3-pointer and scored on a layup on a Wolf Point turnover as the Eagles went up 22-17.
Toavs then missed a pair of free throws and Harris sank one of two at the other end to give Fairfield a 23-17 lead.
Copenhaver scored inside to halt the bleeding, but Collin scored a layup off a Fairfield steal to make it 25-19 Wolves as Wolf Point head coach Kelly Nieskens finally called a timeout with 1:31 left in the opening half.
The discussion didn’t help much, however, as Fairfield stole the ball and canned a 3-pointer to make it 28-19 with 1:01 left.
The Wolves missed two shots to end the first half, down 28-19 after relinquishing their 12-4 lead going into the second quarter in which Fairfield outscored Wolf Point 24-7 in the pivotal second period.
Cold shooting plagued the Wolves early in the third quarter with four Wolf Point missed shots until Brady found the mark with a jumper to make it 30-19 Fairfield at the 5:23 mark of the third period.
Senior Taylor Hanks got Wolf Point’s first points of the third quarter with a rebound and bucket at the 4:21 mark that made it 30- 21.
Fairfield senior Bryan Durocher quickly answered that with an inside cut move to make it 32-21.
The Wolves scored another bucket at the 3:24 mark to make it 32-23, then both teams went cold again until Wolf Point junior Mechiah Zilkoski fed an inbound pass to junior Layne Nelson for a bucket to make it 32-25 with under 2 minutes left in the third.
Shortly later, Hayden Hanks followed up his own miss on a 3-pointer with a rebound and bucket to cut the Fairfield lead to 32-27 entering the fourth quarter.
Fairfield promptly put the game away in the fourth quarter with a 3-pointer from Durocher and then a 3-point play from Durocher to make it 38-27 with 6:04 to go.
Shortly later, Harris scored inside to make it 40-27 and Wolf Point took a timeout with 4:46 left.
Wolf Point employed a full-court press as Fairfield killed the clock, but it took the Wolves more than a minute to commit a foul to stop the clock with 2:16 to go.
More than 3 minutes elapsed in the fourth quarter before either team scored as Taylor Hanks fouled out with 1:34 left, and Harris made both free throws to make it 42-27 Fairfield.
Zilkoski hit a 3-pointer to make it 42-30, and the Wolves quickly fouled this time, although Brady sank both free throws to make it 44-30.
Some late free throws from Fairfield and a final jumper from freshman Dalton Hafner arrived at the 47-32 final.
The Wolves shot just 28 percent in the game, compared to 39 percent shooting from Fairfield.
Wolf Point was 2-for-11 from three-point land, while Fairfield shot 4-for-10 from downtown.
Hayden Hanks was the leading scorer for the Wolves with nine points, more than half of which came from the free throw line as he shot 2-for-8 from the field and 0-for-3 from three-point land.
Zilkoski had six points on two 3-pointers and Toavs had five points, shooting 2-for-10 from the field.
Copenhaver and Nelson had four points each, while Taylor Hanks and Hafner had two points each.
Brady led Fairfield with 19 points, shooting 6-for-12 from the field, 3-for-5 from three-point land, and 4-for-6 from the free throw line.
Wolves vs. Glasgow
Following the opening round loss to Fairfield, the Wolves played Glasgow Friday in a loser-out game, and won 50-46 to keep their season alive.
Taylor Hanks led the Wolves with 18 points, including three 3-pointers.
Zilkoski had 14 points on two 3-pointers, Toavs had 13 points, Copenhaver had 3 points, and Nelson finished with two points.
Other game stats were unavailable.
Wolves vs. Plentywood
After the Glasgow win, the Wolves faced Plentywood Saturday in a loser-out game and lost 68-50.
Copenhaver led the Wolves with 15 points, including two 3-pointers.
Taylor Hanks had nine points with one 3-pointer, Hayden Hanks had six points with one 3-pointer, freshman Tyson Bridges had six points, Zilkoski had five points, Nelson had three points on a 3-pointer, and Toavs, Hafner and junior Taylor Nygard had two points each.
Other game stats were unavailable.