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Freshman McKay Cannon rushes for the basket during the Montana game Saturday. (Abby Van Ess / The Signpost)

With the Wildcats win over Montana on Saturday night, they clinched first place in the conference going into the tournament.

But it wasn’t easy. The game against the Grizzlies was one of the loudest and most intense games of the season, all of this in the last home game of the year for the men’s basketball team.

The Wildcats won by a final score of 60-54 in what was their lowest-scoring output this season. The bulk of the Wildcats points were scored by Dusty Baker, Cody John and Zach Braxton.

Baker scored 20 points with the bulk coming from three 3-pointers and seven free throws. It was a breakout game for Baker, who was pushed into a bigger role with Joel Bolomboy injured.

“I just felt comfortable, confident, felt aggressive. With Joel being out, I knew I needed to step up a little bit,” said Baker

On Baker’s big game, head coach Randy Rahe said, “He’s got such a great poise about him. He never gets rattled, and he’s a lot tougher than what he looks. He’s got that nice cute face with the nice hair, but he has a mean streak about him.”

John and Braxton scored 13 points each, John making a 3-pointer with six free throws and Braxton making three free throws with the bulk of his scoring coming from baskets down in the paint.

This was one of the team’s toughest shooting games of the season with the team only converting six of their 3-pointers for a 27.3 percent success rate.

Braxton was also the team leader in rebounds pulling down seven in the game, with Baker and Kyndahl Hill grabbing six rebounds each. The team only accounted for five assists in the game with Jeremy Senglin and Richaud Gittens dishing out two assists, each with John getting the other assist.

There was also an incident after the game during the post-game handshakes where players from both sides engaged in a scuffle, the cause of which is unknown.

Braxton said, “There’s just a lot of passion on both teams, and sometimes things happen, and it was just one of those things.”

This was one of the most physical games of the year with hard fouls and hard non-fouls that lead to a lot of energy, both on and off the court, with a loud crowd that came in with a purpose.

“I hate it. I’m going to find out what happened, I can’t even say who started what,” said Rahe.

This was all done without the Wildcats having standout senior Joel Bolomboy. Bolomboy has missed the last few games with a knee injury that, unfortunately, had him miss Senior Night.

While Bolomboy was at the game to receive a standing ovation from the crowd, he did not get to play against the conference rival Grizzlies.

“He is an absolute poster child for the kind of people we want in this program, incredible character, tremendous values,” Rahe said.

He may not have played against Montana, but this game was a proper send-off for Joel Bolomboy here at the Dee Events Center.

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