05/15/2016 2:25 AM
The Tri-Cities Fever chances for the playoffs took a hit Saturday night with a 49-44 loss to the Billings Wolves at the Toyota Center.
Tri-Cities, which was a game behind Billings (5-6) for third place in the Intense Conference, falls two games off the pace with five games remaining in the regular season.
“We just have to keep playing,” said defensive lineman Brandon Rankin. “We have to be professionals; We have watch film and get ready for next week.”
The Fever (3-8) is back on the field next Friday at rival Spokane. The Empire is leading the Intense Conference at 8-2 and is 3-0 against Tri-Cities this season.
Tri-Cities, which was playing at home for the first time in three weeks, got off to a fast start, and held a 10-point lead at halftime at 36-26.
However, Billings scored 20 straight points to open the third quarter and led 46-36 with just under seven minutes reaming in the quarter. The Fever got back to within a touchdown at 46-44 and had two chances in the fourth quarter to take the lead.
But both times the Fever was intercepted in the end zone, the final coming in the closing seconds of the game. The first was thrown by Hunter Wanket and the second by Pat McCain. Michael Green was in the right spot at the right time, both times.
“We had our chances,” said running back Rob Brown. “Those turnovers just killed us.”
Brown, for the second straight week, jumpstarted the Fever offense by running back the opening kickoff 55 yards for a touchdown to give Tri-Cities a quick 7-0 lead. The Fever offense that could only muster one touchdown last week at Cedar Rapids on its way to 18 points last week, scored 20 points in the first quarter Saturday night.
After halftime, the Fever offense stalled, scoring just eight points as Billings, which evens the season series with Tri-Cities, scored 23 to pull out the key win.
“We had every opportunity,” Rankin said. “Coach L (Lingenfelder) had a great game plan and put us in the right position, for some reason we just didn’t mesh.”