Short-handed Clark Fork boys fall to Seeley Swan

by CHUCK BANDEL
Valley press | January 6, 2021 12:00 AM

With the odds stacked against them due to a reduced active roster, the Clark Fork boys almost pulled off a seasoning opening comeback win in Seeley.

Rules concerning COVID-19 and practice time issued by the Montana High School Association meant five players on the Mountain Cat 13-player roster were not eligible for the contest.

In the end, host Seeley escaped with a narrow 62-58 non-conference Montana Class C boys basketball victory over the Mountain Cats, Saturday.

Seeley took an early lead in the first quarter as five players contributed to a 15-13 advantage at the quarter’s end. Clark Fork senior guard Bryan Mask scored all eight of his game total points in the opening stanza, including a 3-pointer and three of four shots from the foul line.

Mask sat out most of the second half due to an injury he sustained early in the opening minutes of it. Mask was 0 of 4 from the charity stripe in the third quarter, part of what would be a 10-for-21 team free throw shooting statistic.

Seeley outscored Clark Fork 19-8 in the second quarter, building a 34-21 halftime lead. The Blackhawks were paced in the second quarter by Sawyer Shelmerdine, who had 10 points in the second quarter. Shelmerdine was the game’s high scorer with 28 points.

With Mask unable to continue, coach Erik Johnson turned to freshman Chase Woodson, who saw time on the court last year as an eighth grader. Although he did not score, Woodson earned compliments from Johnson for his play.

“Chase played great for us,” Johnson said. “We really needed some long minutes out of him. He pulled down a couple big rebounds and made a couple deflections for us. We needed that kind of aggressiveness off the bench.”

The two teams traded baskets in the third quarter as Mountain Cats forward Aaron Waddle scored eight points to help offset another six points by Shelmerdine.

Trailing 45-33 heading into the final quarter of play, it was time for Mountain Cats forward Carson Callison to shine.

Callison scored 18 of his team-high 23 points in the fourth quarter, helping the Cats erase most of the 12-point deficit they faced heading into the final eight minutes. He outscored Seeley in the frame.

But in the end it was not quite enough to overcome another eight points from Shelmerdine and nine points Jason James who dropped in a trio of 3-pointers to help the Blackhawks hold on for the win.

Clark Fork forward Danner Haskins contributed 15 points to the Cats’ cause, while Waddle added 10.

Despite the disappointing loss, coach Johnson said there were some good things to go with some not so good things.

“If we expect to win close games, we need to shoot our freebies much better,” Johnson said after the game. “Our defense was consistently disorganized and uninspired. There are no compelling reasons not to perform better in those areas.”

Johnson also had words of praise for the team and the encouraging way it fought back from a large deficit.

“I am pleased that we didn’t quit when Bryan went out,” he said. “Everyone improved his play toward the end. We ran out of time in the fourth quarter and at the end of the game, but we didn’t use the first three quarters to help our cause.”

The Mountain Cats next action is Thursday evening when they travel to Hot Springs for a 14C conference matchup with the Savage Heat. They return home Saturday night for a game against county rival St. Regis, in Superior.