Thompson Falls had aspirations of turning some good recent performances into a boys’ state tournament berth, but the Blue Hawks were eliminated from the Western B Divisional Tournament last week at the Ronan Event Center without recording a victory.
Seeded No. 2 from the 7B District, the Blue Hawks opened divisional play against Powell County-Deer Lodge, a team that had handed defending Class B state champion Bigfork a rare loss around mid-season. The Wardens stood guard well over the T-Falls basket, holding the Blue Hawks to single-digit scoring each of the first three quarters en route to a 50-32 victory.
In the first round of consolation play, T-Falls faced Florence-Carlton, a district challenge game winner over Troy. The Falcons lost to eventual divisional tourney runner-up Missoula Loyola 73-48 in the first round.
Three Falcons connected on 3-pointers in the opening quarter against the Blue Hawks, and Florence-Carlton sank five treys in the first eight minutes and rolled to a 61-41 win to eliminate T-Falls.
Bigfork successfully defended its Western B Divisional crown, turning back Loyola 53-43 in last Saturday’s championship game. The Vikings topped Mission 67-53 and Loyola beat Deer Lodge 63-34 in the semifinal games.
After a semifinal loss to Bigfork, Mission earned a win over Florence-Carlton and topped Deer Lodge 67-53 in the third-place game. The Bulldogs were to face Loyola in a challenge game Tuesday evening in Ronan for the No. 2 seed into the Class B Boys’ State Basketball Tournament. The game was played after press time Monday night.
T-FALLS trailed Deer Lodge by only two, 15-13, at halftime in last Thursday’s divisional opener. However, the Blue Hawks were outscored 18-8 in the pivotal third quarter.
“I felt like we could never seize the moment,” T-Falls head coach Jake Mickelson said. “We had great looks at the basket. We missed some threes and some bunnies … We played great defense, but it seemed like we couldn’t made a big run.”
There were only seven free throws in the game, and T-Falls was 0-for-1.
The Blue Hawks did shoot 50 percent from 2-point range
Seniors Grant Lundberg and Riley Riffle both had a solid game against Deer Lodge. Lundberg led in scoring with 11 points, and he had seven rebounds, four assists and two steals. Riffle netted eight of his 10 points in the third quarter, and he had five rebounds.
“It’s real cool to se him come off like that,” Mickelson said of Riffle.
FLORENCE-CARLTON came out like gangbusters against T-Falls in Friday morning’s loser-out contest. The Falcons led 21-5 after one period and 30-15 at halftime.
“They shot the ball extremely well,” Mickelson said. “It’s tough to dig out of a hole. They just had their day against us.”
The Blue Hawks closed the game out strong with 18 points in the final stanza.
Two pluses for T-Falls: the Blue Hawks worked for 17 offensive rebounds and had only 10 turnovers.
“All weekend it seemed like there was a lid on the basket,” Mickelson said. “The kids were executing pretty well, but getting the ball in the hole didn’t work out for us.
The coach said Lundberg “worked his butt off … they all did. They didn’t get down on themselves.”
Lundberg led T-Falls with 14 points and nine boards, one rebound short of a double-double in his high school finale.
Riffle also had a good weekend. “He caught the ball as well as he ever had. He was real focused,” Mickelson said. “He doesn’t have anything to be disappointed about.”
Lundberg, Riffle, Brian Henry and 6-foot-2 Ben Beauchman played their last games for the Blue Hawks.
“Grant was a part of a couple of real good teams,” Mickelson said. “He burst on the scene as our go-to guy this season. He did an admirable job. I was happy to have him.”
Riffle “gave everything he had. He was steady and did a good job,” the coach said. Henry showed “huge improvement. By the end of the season he was starting for me. He was awesome, fun to be around.” It was Henry’s first year of playing organized basketball.