By Bruce Sayler
Wins like Wednesday’s by Montana Tech can bring an easy smile to a coach’s face.
Carly Sanon, head coach of the Oredigger women’s basketball team, was in compliance, emerging beaming from the locker room after Montana Tech toppled NAIA second-ranked Bushnell 84-73 in a non-conference game. (Stats)
“(The Beacons) are a really good team,” Sanon said in the hallway outside the locker room in Montana Tech HPER Complex. “We played really hard. We’ve been focusing on finishing every play and I felt like we did that tonight.”
“Their press bothered us a little bit. But, once we started executing our press-breaker like we needed to (the team experienced success).”
Bushnell, from Eugene, Oregon, showed good athleticism and quickness to go with as much height its’ style required. The Orediggers countered with similar qualities, including capable depth.
“Brooke (Heggie) had a big night for us,” Sanon said. “’Tavia (Rooney) had a double-double (14 points, 16 rebounds) along with five assists and five blocks. She played her heart out tonight.
“What has really helped us the last few games is we’re getting a big lift from off the bench. Players like Ally (Cleverly), Jaden (Comings), Aubrie (Rademacher), Soda (Rice) and McKayla (Kloker) are continuing to help us as we play these tough teams.”
The Wednesday win was the Orediggers’ third in a row after an 0-2 start on the season.
The game was close, tight until the Beacons may have worn down in allowing Montana Tech a 22-12 advantage in the fourth quarter. The last frame started with a 7-0 run by the Orediggers, who owned a tenuous 62-61 edge heading into the period. Dani Urick scored the first five points of the quarter a drive-for-layup and 3-for-4 performance at the free throw line. Rooney then dribbled across the key for a runner and Montana Tech’s lead was suddenly 69-61 not quite three minutes into the last stanza.
Bushnell, however, wouldn’t go away very easily. The Beacons bounced back with a 10-5 surge finished by three straight inside baskets. Six-foot-four Libby Mathis tallied two of them and Morgan McKinney had the other.
The Orediggers responded with a 10-2 closing spree. Rademacher sank two foul shots to start it. Rooney then netted a layup off a pass from Heggie. Mathis laid in a feed from Kaylen Kamelamela for Bushnell’s last two points that interrupted Montana Tech’s last surge. The Orediggers resumed it, though, and finished the game with two Cleverly caging two charity tosses, Rooney taking in another Heggie pass to the hoop and returning the favor with an assist to Heggie.
Clutch shooting also factored into the Montana Tech win.
“We were 7-for-18, 39 percent, so, yeah, we shot (the 3-point shot) pretty well tonight,” Sanon said. “We shot them best when we needed to. Mollie (Peoples) hit some and ‘Kay’ (Kloker) hit one.”
The Orediggers jumped out to an 8-2 lead to start the game with Rooney scoring half the team’s points. The Beacons found their range and rhythm, though, and grabbed the advantage with a 7-0 run for a 15-12 difference moments later. Comings came off the bench for Montana Tech and grabbed a Rooney pass to take in for a layup, then converted a three-point play and the Orediggers had a 17-15 edge after a quarter.
Nationally ranked Bushnell looked poised to take over the game midway though the second quarter and put to together an 11-2 spree for a 33-29 lead. Aly Mirabile tallied a three-point play and Bella Pedrojetti followed making a freebie with a 3-point basket. Not quite 4 minutes remained in the half. The difference held most of the rest of the half until Cleverly netted a 3-pointer for the Orediggers to tie the score at 37-all, which wound up being the halftime score.
The teams traded leads early in the second half. Montana Tech grabbed one first as Peoples canned a 3-pointer and Heggie then knocked down a short jumper off a pass from Urick. The Beacons answered with a Mirabile basket from just inside the 3-point arc, then two baskets from Aspen Slifka, the first one being worth three points. Bushnell then led 44-42 and the third quarter wasn’t yet two minutes old.
Peoples gave the Orediggers a 51-49 edge with a 3-pointer, but treys by Pedrojetti and Slifka moved the Beacons ahead 55-53 a minute later. Peoples knotted the score with a pullup jumper and then Rooney gave Montana Tech the lead with a driving layup. It held, but not without challenge. A 3-pointer and a bucket from just inside 3-point land, both by Kloker, put the Orediggers’ advantage at 62-57 with a minute left in the quarter. Slifka and Olivia Bailon baskets cut Bushnell’s deficit to only a point, 62-61, as the third frame ended.
However, the comeback seemed to drain Bushnell energy needed to overcome Montana Tech’s performance.
Heggie led the Orediggers in scoring with 18 points, Rooney had 14, Peoples 13 and Urick 10. Cleverly finished with nine points, Madison Allen with seven, Kloker and Comings with five each and Rademacher with three. Megan Delaney and Rice both also played. Montana Tech dominated the boards, outrebounding the Beacons 38-28 as Urick pulled down seven caroms to back Rooney’s collection of 16.
Slifka led Bushnell with 16 points, Pedrojetti scored 14 and McKinney 11. Slifka also had eight rebounds. It was only the second game this season for the Beacons, who are now 0-2.
The Orediggers will now go to Lewiston, Idaho, to play in the Lewis-Clark State College Women’s Basketball Tournament Friday and Saturday. They will play host Lewis-Clark State at 6 p.m. on Friday, then Eastern Oregon at 2 p.m., Saturday.