The Florence Falcons knew they were headed to the Class B state tournament even before they played Deer Lodge in the championship game at the Western B Divisional in Hamilton on Friday. Bigfork, whom Florence had played in the semi finals, had just defeated Loyola for third place and eliminated a chance at a challenge game. But even though the pressure was off this young Falcon team, they were determined to win another divisional championship
Florence took an early lead in the ‘chipper’ and had a 14-point lead at the half. But Deer Lodge coach Curtis Fox made some defensive adjustments at the half and pulled back within five points at the end of the third quarter. The game came down to free throws. Deer Lodge made 21 of 33 while Florence struggled at the line and sank 19 of 39.
The game was tied at the end of four quarters at 42 all after Aaron Ward caught a lobbed pass and sank it for the Falcons. Each team only made three points in the first overtime and sent the game into a second overtime. Malik Parham hit a couple of free throws late in the second overtime period gave the Wardens the edge and they went on to win, 53-50.
Deer Lodge 53, Florence 50, 2OT
Deer Lodge – Walker 2, Stone 16, Ward 2, Clark 4, Vasquez 7, Benjamin 9, Parham 7, Doiron 5, Pierson 1.
Florence – Sage Hansen 4, Ryno Baerlocher 11, Chantz Hotsinpiller 8, Michael Finley 5, Aaron Ward 17, Bradley Schaff 2, Ryan Magnum 1, Riley Phillips 2.
Florence opened their tournament play against the Thompson Falls Blue Hawks, the No. 4 seed from the north. Thompson Falls came prepared to slow the Falcon offense down and played a very deliberate style of play. Florence didn’t get flustered by the ploy and stayed right with them. A last second shot by the Blue Hawks gave them a one point lead at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter. Florence had a three-point lead as time ran out in the half but a long shot by Jaron Laws tied the game at 11 all.
“Coach Laws is a great coach,” said coach Sam Baerlocher of the Falcons. “He had to do something because we’d beat them both times. Luckily we hit the shots early and they couldn’t stay in it. They made us work really hard.”
The Falcons came back from the half with renewed focus and got their inside game going between Mike Finlay and Aaron Ward. By the end of the third quarter, Florence had built five-point lead. They went on to win, 39-24. Baerlocher felt his team’s post-season experience over the past few years helped them maintain their confidence.
Florence 39, Thompson Falls 24
Thompson Falls – Laws 6, Lloyd 3, Reinschmidt 12, Pavlik 3.
Florence - Hansen 4, Ry. Baerlocher 16, Hotsinpiller 4, Phillips 3, Finley 6, Ward 6.
A week ago, Bigfork handed the Florence Falcons a last second loss so the Falcons knew they had their work cut out for them. Bigfork is a big, physical team and although Florence has the height, they lack the size of the Vikings.
Florence pulled ahead early in the second quarter when Ryne Baerlocher hit a trey. The Falcons continued their pressure on the Vikings and pulled ahead by 7 points at the half.
Bigfork came back and outscored Florence in the third quarter. A couple of key turnovers by Florence added to the Vikings’ confidence and they briefly took the lead before a shot from just over the half court line by Ryne Baerlocher swished the net at the buzzer. Bigfork picked up the pressure and with Florence in a little foul trouble, the Falcons were struggling.
“They wouldn’t be denied,” said Baerlocher. “With two minutes to go and down seven points, they could have quit but they didn’t.”
It looked as if it was going to be a repeat of last weekend and Bigfork would win. Bigfork pulled their press off with 33 seconds remaining in the game and a one-point lead. Ryne Baerlocher took the pass and with only seven ticks left in the game, sent a shot up from the top of the key. The ball circled the rim, once, twice and then dropped as the game ended.
“I got the ball and looked, saw there was only three and a half seconds left and shot it. It went in,” said Ryne Baerlocher who was 2/3 from three point land and finished with 13 points.
Florence 56, Bigfork 55
Florence – Hansen 9, Ry. Baerlocher 13, Hotsinpiller 3, Finlay 5, Ward 14, Phillips 4, Rh. Baerlocher 6, Schaff 2.
Bigfork – Jordt 10, Lorang 17, Dopps 13, Boese 3, Fraley 4, Landon 6, 2.
Florence will play Lodge Grass in the opening game of the State B tournament at the Brick Breeden Field House at Bozeman at 12:30 on Thursday.
The Florence girls opened their tournament play against Eureka. The Lady Falcons came out strongly and went on to top Eureka, 57-39. Coach Bryan Neuman was happy with the win but thought they have had better games. He said it was first game nerves. With only one senior on the team, he said his young team got a little frustrated that they weren’t scoring as many points now as they had at the beginning of the season.
The Lady Falcons met up with Loyola, the eventual champion, in the semi finals. The Breakers won, 75-49. Florence then met Deer Lodge in loser out action Saturday morning. Although both Rosie O’Brien and Courtney Byrne each scored 16 points, it wasn’t enough and Florence lost, 62-51.