By Bill Foley
The Montana Tech men’s basketball team didn’t get a win Saturday night.
No. 3 Lewis-Clark State College jumped out to a big lead and held on for an 84-75 Frontier Conference win at the HPER Complex. Stats
When the heated night came to an end, though, the feisty Orediggers just might have earned some respect from their conference rival.
“I was happy of how we competed in the second half,” Montana Tech coach Patrick O’Herron said after his Orediggers fought back from a 23-point second-half deficit to pull within single digits. “We’re capable of playing that way. We need that confidence, and hopefully this will help us going into the final four games.”
The Warriors led 40-25 at halftime before extending the lead to 53-30 after Cammie Lewis sank a 3-pointer with 16 minutes, 50 seconds left in the game.
Then, the Orediggers slowly pulled back into the game against a team that improved to 12-2 in conference and 24-2 overall. It was a team that beat the Orediggers by a combined total of 60 points in the previous two meetings.
O’Herron said nerves got the better of the Orediggers, who started two freshmen and a sophomore, early in the game.
“Our freshman got a little more relaxed, Kale (Guldseth) and Lukas (Vining), and started playing the way they are capable of playing,” O’Herron said, explaining why his team improved as the game went on. “In the second half we were finally able to shoot the ball the way we’re capable, but we couldn’t stop them on their half.
“They were a little hesitant and a little intimidated,” O’Herron said. “Jalen (Coates) did a great job trying to keep us in the game. He made some big shots, attacked the basket.”
The Orediggers got to within seven points twice in the final minute — when Guldseth sank a 3-pointer with 59 seconds left to cut the lead to 78-71 and when Paul Engstrom scored off a John Chapman assist 10 second later to make it 80-73.
That was as close as the Orediggers got.
Jacob Wiley scored 16 points to lead the Warriors, who saw all five starters score in double figures. Lewis scored 15, while Isaiah Omamogho tossed in 13, Rich Tesmer scored 11 and Nick Emerson tossed in 10.
“They are every bit of No. 3,” O’Herron said. “They are so deep. They don’t lose a lot when they come in with their second five.”
Coates scored 24 to pace the Orediggers, who fell to 2-12 and 7-19. Vining, a true freshman, reached a season-high with 19 points to go along with seven rebounds, while Engstrom added 14 points and six boards.
Guldseth scored eight for the Orediggers, who got six from John Chapman and two apiece from Akeem Williams and Flemming Okeke. Sadiq Inuwa also played for the Orediggers in the heated game that saw three technical fouls called.
After the game, a couple of players had to be held back during a scuffle during the post-game handshake.
O’Herron chalked that up to the players being “competitors.”
“What are you going to do? One team is so confident because they won so many games, and another team is fighting to get the respect,” O’Herron said. “That’s competition. You know it’s going to happen, and I like my guys to have fire. We’ve just got to control it.”
The Orediggers have two more home games. Next week they play host to Rocky Mountain College and Montana Western.