Bulldog women complete sweep of Orediggers

Bulldog women complete sweep of Orediggers
Montana Tech's Jade Comings goes up for a bucket as Montana Western's Jayden Winslow (front) and Brynley Fitzgerald defend Sunday afternoon at the HPER Complex. Tech's Mesa Williams is also show. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

Montana Western took over in the second half, jumped on a depleted and tiring Montana Tech corps and defeated the Orediggers 61-52 Sunday. (Stats)

The victory gave the Bulldogs a sweep of the weekend Frontier Conference college women’s basketball series in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.

The teams were tied 13-all after one quarter and Montana Tech owned a 31-29 edge at halftime. Montana Western used a tight zone defense and a slash-to-the-basket offense to pull ahead and stay ahead past intermission. Lilly Gopher drove for a hoop to tie the score at 31-all two minutes into the third quarter and Bulldog teammate Shainy Mack tallied on a fast-break and the Bulldogs were ahead 33-31. Montana Tech never led again. Celestine Faletoni countered for the Orediggers with a floater from in-close for one last tie. Sydney Sheridan drilled a 3-point basket to put Montana Western ahead for good.

Montana Tech played without three of its top six players as Brooke Heggie, Tavia Rooney and Mollie Peoples missed for medical reasons.

“That’s 28 points and about 15 rebounds out of our lineup,” Carly Sanon, head coach of the Orediggers, noted while agreeing that the Bulldogs are an awfully tough opponent to have to play short-handed. “We’re hoping to get them, or some of them, back in the near future. Our young kids are getting some good experience, now, though, that should help us a little late in the season.”

Jaden Comings drew a start for Montana Tech after seeing few minutes most of the season. Faletoi has proved to be a dependable backup when healthy since joining the program.

Comings shared team scoring honors with Dani Urick, each scoring 10 points. Faletoi responded to her starting role with six points and eight rebounds, seven on the defensive end. Recovered from a list of injuries, Faletoi showed the quickness and athleticism that brought her to college basketball.

Montana Western, however, proved to be too much to contend with for this meeting. Montana State dropdown Brynley Fitzgerald piled up 22 points to lead the Bulldogs, and Mack finished with 13 points.

Neither team shot well from 3-point land – the Bulldogs going a frosty 3-for-23 while Montana Tech was 5-for-13. It was an area where Peoples’ sharpshooting could have definitely made a difference, Sanon said.

“We were very competitive,” the coach said. “I’m very proud of Jaden Comings starting for us and getting to the foul line for us a couple of times and playing well. She got hit (in the third quarter) and wasn’t able to play the later part of the game.”

Comings appeared to have been poked in the eye during a rebound battle.

“We outshot them,” Sanon said, “but we have to be more aggressive on the offensive end and get to the line more often.”

Montana Tech shot 7-for-8 from the foul line while the Bulldogs made good on 14 of 18 similar opportunities.

Montana Western looked to run away early, building a 13-8 advantage on 7-0 run capped by Natali Denning with a three-point play. The Orediggers pushed back. Urick netted a deep 3-pointer just in front of the 30-second clock buzzer, and then Faletoi hooped a floater with 11 seconds left in the opening quarter, creating the 13-all deadlock.

Fitzgerald gave the Bulldogs a three-point edge with a basket-and-free-throw combo, but then Montana Tech strung six straight points. Urick forced in a basket from underneath before Comings and Madison Allen converted consecutive steals for layups. The spree gave the Orediggers a 19-16 edge. It was evidence the game would probably be competitive the rest of the way. The last 1:20 of the half saw Montana Western gain a 29-28 edge as Mack nailed a 3-pointer and Fitzgerald caged a pair of free throws, before Mesa Williams drained a 3-pointer for Montana Tech. The shot gave the Orediggers their 31-29 margin at halftime.

The Bulldogs gained the lead in third quarter, but Montana Tech stayed close. The Orediggers pulled to within 41-40 when Aubrie Rademacher connected on a jump.er from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs, though, widened the gap some on a rebound basket by Mesa King and a 3-pointer by Fitzgerald, a former prep standout in Dillon.

Montana Western’s lead was 46-42, after Allen took a feed from Faletoi for a layup, going into the final period.

The Bulldogs chalked up four straight points to start the last quarter as Gopher hit from in the pain,  and she and King both hooped charity tosses. The Montana Western advantage was 50-42, its largest of the game until the final score, with 6:14 displayed on the clock. Montana Tech’s smallest deficit after that five points, 57-52, The after two freebies each by Urick and Williams. The Bulldogs iced the win with a Fitzgerald driving for a basket and Sheridan sinking two free throws.

“A couple of 3s might have helped us against that zone,” Sanon said. “We’ll keep battling and try to control what we can control. We’ll keep working at getting better.

“Western is hard to play because they’re so quick.”

Comings and Urick were backed in the Montana Tech scoring totals by Allen with nine points, Williams with eight, Faletoi with six, McKayla Kloker with five and Rademacher with fourK Hailey Crawford and Soda Rice also played.

King was the Bulldogs’ leader on the boards with six rebounds.  The win moved Montana Western to 10-4 overall this season, including an 8-4 conference mark. The Bulldogs won the season series against Montana Tech, 3-1.

The loss put the Orediggers at 4-10, both overall and in league play. They are to play at Providence of Great Falls next Saturday and Sunday. Their next home game is slated for February 20 versus Montana State-Northern.

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