By Lido Vizzutti, 2-24-12
||Caption: Whitefish's Logan Harwood finds an open lane during the Bulldogs' 46-44 win over Frenchtown during the 2012 Northwestern A Divisional Basketball Tournament in Columbia Falls. - Lido Vizzutti/Flathead Beacon
COLUMBIA FALLS – Both times the game was on the line, Gage Vasquez had the ball in his hands. And both times, the Whitefish senior delivered.
Vasquez caught an offensive rebound and muscled in the game-winning basket with three seconds remaining in overtime and Whitefish rallied past Frenchtown 46-44 in a physical semifinal at the Northwestern A divisional boys basketball tournament on Friday night.
The come-from-behind victory sets up a dramatic matchup for Saturday night’s title game. The No. 2 seed Bulldogs (12-7) will play top-seeded rival Columbia Falls (16-3) at 8 p.m.
Whitefish knows drama after Friday. The Bulldogs trailed the entire night before clawing back to tie the game with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. As he has done all season, Vasquez led the way, scoring 10 of Whitefish’s final 16 points. His stretch of scoring included a game-tying basket with three seconds left in regulation that sent the game into overtime.
“This team just finds a way to get it done when things aren’t going good,” Whitefish head coach Mark Casazza said.
Vasquez, Northwestern A’s leading scorer, finished with 14 points along with Jake Slaybaugh, whose biggest play of the night might have been on defense. Slaybaugh set Vasquez up for the heroic finish by drawing an over-the-back foul on the defensive end with seven seconds left in overtime.
“We just led the few minutes we needed to,” Casazza said.
Whitefish could not find an answer for Frenchtown’s physical play for most of the night. Austin Blanx scored a game-high 20 points for the Broncs. Frenchtown led by as many as eight in the first half.
Whitefish stayed close all night thanks to confident shooting and a relentless rebounding effort, even when Vasquez sat for awhile after drawing his fourth foul midway through the third.
Cooper Olson hit two 3-pointers en route to seven points and Logan Harwood also chipped in seven for the Bulldogs. Jace Kalbfleisch and Bryce Wehrli each had two.
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