The Florence Falcons really should be happy. After all, they did finish their season with a 24-2 record, one of the best records in the state. However, they finished third in Class B for the fourth year in a row.
“I bet there’s a record book where we could put four years in a row being third,” said coach Sam Baerlocher. “To win 12 out of 16 games the last four years at state. I think a lot of people would like to be there. Third’s pretty darn good.”
The Falcons topped Bigfork for the third time this year to claim third place with a 61-49 victory. Both teams played in loser out action at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning and then had to come back and play in the consolation game at 3:30 that same afternoon.
“I didn’t want to go home without a trophy,” said senior Aaron Ward. “We were all pretty excited and I feel like our legs were still under us. You couldn’t really feel your legs at that point (after Florence took the lead).”
A trey by sophomore Rhett Baerlocher gave Florence some distance and more importantly, the momentum at the end of the first quarter of the consolation game. Florence built upon that momentum and had a 10-point lead at the half. After that, it was all Falcons.
“They’re great kids,” concluded Baerlocher. “They know this, they never quit.”
Florence 61, Bigfork 49
Bigfork – Austin Jordt 13, Colter Trent 6, Chris Landon 4, Tyler Kirby 5, Christian Evans 11, Seth Roessmann 3, Josh Sandry 2, Cameron Nissen 5.
Florence – Ryno Baerlocher 21, Rhett Baerlocher 12, Chantz Hotsinpiller 4, Mike Finlay 5, Aaron Ward 17, Ryan Mangun 2.
Florence began their tournament play in a tough, physical game against Columbus that saw two intentional fouls called on the Cougars and one technical. After having a small case of the jitters in the first 90 seconds of Florence’s opening game of the State Class B tournament, the Falcons settled down and went to work. Rhett Baerlocher hit a short jumper to give the Falcons the one point lead and they never looked back after that. They cruised to a 56-45 win.
The Falcons gained more momentum in the second quarter when Columbus was hit simultaneously with an intentional foul and then a technical. Chantz Hotsinpiller stepped to the line and sank three of the four free throws to give Florence a 12-point lead. The game was physical with 42 fouls being called, including another intentional foul on Columbus in the final period. Aaron Ward finished the game with 21 points and 12 rebounds.
“It’s always a relief,” said Coach Baerlocher. “We had a week off. We knew they were a very physical team. We knew we had out and play within ourselves and not play with too much emotion and burn ourselves out early. I don’t care how many times you’re there, the first game of the tournament, it’s tough.”
Florence 56, Columbus 45
Columbus – Anthony Panella 13, Philip Holton 10, Kade Osborne 2, Daniel Wiggs 4, Tyler Ostrum 3, Trey Ostrum 13.
Florence – Ryno Baerlocher 9, Rhett Baerlocher 10, Cantz Hotsinpiller 5, Mike Finlay 4, Aaron Ward 21, Ryan Mangun 2, Brad Schaff 5.
Florence met up with Wolf Point in the semi finals. The Falcons were tight and quickly got off their game and then had to play catch up. By the end of the first quarter, they were down eight points and Ward and Hotsinpiller both had to play cautiously because of foul trouble.
“We weren’t playing the way we wanted to,” said Ryno Baerlocher. “Last night was a different kind of night.”
Although Florence made several runs at the Wolves, they couldn’t break past them and fell, 54-44. Ryno Baerlocher led the scoring with 10 points. Rhett Baerlocher and Ward each had nine points. Hotsinpiller finished with six. Mike Finlay and Brad Schaff each had four points and Ryan Mangun had two.
The loss sent Florence to the Saturday morning game where they matched up against Choteau. Both teams were sluggish to begin with and matched almost point for point in the first half. A big rebound by Finlay in the second quarter gave the Falcons a little pep and they began to come alive. By the end of the third quarter they were up by four. They extended the lead to as many as 10 points several times in the fourth quarter but Choteau fought their way back each time. An intentional foul by Choteau sealed the 57-52 win for the Falcons.
“Chantz (Hotsinpiller), he’s just solid,” said Baerlocher. “He never hurts you, always in the game. He’s got a calm demeanor to him. Rhett- he was never intimidated. He guarded some pretty tough kids and never let up. Ryan Mangun, Bradley Schaff all those guys came in and gave us some valuable minutes. You don’t get third just playing five guys. We had to play eight deep.”
Ward finished with 18 points. Rhett Baerlocher had 12 and Ryno had nine points. Mike Finlay finished with six and Ryan Mangun had four. Hotsinpiller had five points and Schaff finished with three.