030814 Columbia Falls Laurel Class A Basketball

Columbia Falls' Alex Presnell drives for a layup in the State A boys’ semifinal game against Laurel on Friday in Great Falls.

RION SANDERS/Great Falls Tribune

GREAT FALLS – For the sixth straight season, the Wildcats boys’ basketball team will bring a State A tournament trophy back home to Columbia Falls.

All that’s left to decide now is whether the 2014 installment will be gold or silver.

Columbia Falls set up camp at the free throw line Friday and put Laurel away one point at a time in a 57-48 semifinal victory at Great Falls’ Four Seasons Arena. The win thrust the Wildcats into their sixth championship game in the past 10 seasons.

“We just wanted to hit our free throws so we could go to the championship,” Columbia Falls senior forward Jared Trinastich said. “We knew if we could do that, we’d be going on to Saturday night.”

The State A title will be decided at 8 p.m. Saturday. Columbia Falls plays the winner of Friday’s other semifinal featuring Dillon and Belgrade.

Columbia Falls (18-4) shot an NBA-worthy 25 of 28 from the free throw line Friday – just below 90 percent as a team. That included a 15-of-16 stretch in the fourth quarter that kept Laurel (19-3) at bay.

“If you foul ’em, they’re not going to give you any opportunities,” Laurel coach Patrick Hansen Jr. said. “When that clock is stopped, they’re scoring; when the clock is running, they’re scoring.”

Laurel opened the semifinal bout with five quick points and led 6-2 before two minutes had expired. Then Columbia Falls built the lead it would feed off of for the rest of the game with a 15-0 run that nearly sent the game into the second quarter.

“It’s not too much of a hole because it was early on,” Hanson said. “It just seemed any time that we’d chip away at it in the second half – we cut it to five, cut it to six – a kid like (Alex) Presnell comes down and hits a big three.”

Presnell punched in two triples in that first-quarter stretch and finished with 14 points. Trinastich had a game-high 18 that included a 7-for-8 showing on free throws.

Ty Morgan, a scorer of 12 points, was also 7 of 8 and Presnell hit all six of his attempts.

But the Locomotives kept chugging along. A 25-foot 3-pointer to start the fourth quarter from Evan Jones – who hit another equally long bomb later in the frame – brought Laurel back within 36-32.

It was the fourth straight quarter that Laurel hit the scoreboard first.

“We want to start quarters quick and end quarters on a positive note,” C. Falls coach Cary Finberg started. “We didn’t necessarily start them quick tonight, but we ended every quarter very well.”

In the fourth, that meant the parade of free throws.

Presnell hit two in a row before adding a 15-foot jumper, and Trinastich laid in a softy to push the lead back to 10 at 42-32. After four points back by Laurel, C. Falls finished the game with 13 more free throws in 14 attempts.

That included three straight fouls in the bonus that sent Morgan to the line with 1-and-1 opportunities. He connected on all six demoralizing shots.

Free throws so dominated the Cats’ scoring that they needed only 13 field goals on 28 attempts to tally 57 points.

Laurel shot 18 of 44 from the field, but made just 50 percent (6-12) of its freebies.

Jones, who finished with 13 points, and Zac Allen accounted for all the makes. Allen led the Locomotives – which play for a shot at third place at 9:30 a.m. Saturday against Polson – by scoring 17 points.

Semifinal

Laurel 9 7 13 19 – 48

CFalls 17 11 8 21 – 57

LAUREL – Dylan Meccage 0-6 0-0 0, Keegan Reilly 0-0 0-0 0, Tyler Thompson 0-3 0-2 0, Taylor Maida 4-12 0-0 10, Quinton Holmlund 1-1 0-1 2, Cooper Love 2-2 0-0 6, Evan Jones 4-10 3-4 13, Zac Allen 7-10 3-5 17. Totals: 18-44 6-12 48.

COLUMBIA FALLS – Alex Presnell 3-8 6-6 14, Trevor Houston 0-1 2-2 2, Grant Stenger 0-0 0-0 0, Jayce Fagerland 2-6 2-2 7, Austin Kimmet 0-0 0-0 0, Nakia Alexander 1-2 0-0 3, Ty Morgan 2-3 7-8 12, Mason Gedlaman 0-0 1-2 1, Jared Trinastich 5-8 7-8 18, Grant Wallace 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 13-28 25-28 57.

3-point goals – Laurel 6-19 (Love 2, Jones 2-6, Maida 2-7), C. Falls - 6-15 (Presnell 2-5, Alexander 1-2, Morgan 1-2, Trinastich 1-1, Fagerland 1-4). Total fouls –- Laurel 22, C. Falls 14. Fouled out – Meccage. Rebounds – Laurel 18 (Allen 6), C. Falls 27 (Morgan 6, Trinastich 6). Assists – Laurel 8 (Meccage 3), C. Falls 8 (Presnell 2, Houston 2, Trinastich 2). Turnovers –- Laurel 6, C. Falls 11.

Dillon 51, Belgrade 35

Dillon jumped on Belgrade and went the distance in Friday’s final State A tournament semifinal at the Four Seasons Arena.

The Beavers (20-2) never trailed to advance to the state championship.

Dillon’s Troy Scott led all scorers with 15 points, but 13 of those came in the second half as Scott was limited to just three field goal attempts in the first half. Chance Kluesner added another 11 points for the Beavers, including a 5-of-6 performance on free throws.

Belgrade (15-7), which will play Havre in a loser-out game at 11 a.m. Saturday, was led by Shiloh Christopher’s 13 points.

Semifinal

Belgrade 3 9 7 16 – 35

Dillon 9 9 16 17 – 51

BELGRADE – Trevor Mahn 3-6 0-0 6, Brayden Konkol 2-7 1-2 5, Brandon Stubbs 1-4 0-2 2, Koby Ruff 1-1 1-2 3, Angel Torres 1-1 0-0 2, Ethan Turner 0-1 0-0 Shiloh Christopher 5-9 1-3 13, Keldon Lamb 2-4 0-0 4, Baxter Roys 0-4 0-0 0. Totals: 15-37 3-9 35.

DILLON – Chance Kluesner 2-2 5-6 11, Tyler Jory 0-0 2-2 2, Trae Williams 0-1 3-7 3, JD Ferris 1-4 1-4 4, Parker Love 0-1 0-0 0, Nate Simkins 1-2 0-0 2, Justin Ferris 1-3 0-0 3, Troy Scoot 4-8 5-7 15, Nick Huber 0-0 0-2 2, Tanner Haverfield 1-1 0-0 2, Jason Ferris 2-3 0-0 4, Brady Richardson 2-4 1-1 5. Totals: 14-29 17-29 51.

3-point goals – Belgrade 2-7 (Mahn 0-1, Turner 0-1, Christopher 2-4, Lamb 0-1), Dillon 6-15 (Kluesner 2-2 T Williams 0-1, JD Ferris 1-3, Love 0-1, Simkins 0-1, Ju. Ferris 1-2, Scott 2-5). Rebounds – Belgrade 28 (Konkol 7), Dillon 19 (Scott 4, Richardson 4). Total fouls – Belgrade 22, Dillon 12. Fouled out – Mahn. Flagrant foul – Lamb.

Reporter AJ Mazzolini can be reached at (406) 523-5298, at anthony.mazzolini@missoulian.com, @AJMazzolini or missoulapreps.com.

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