Diggers crack century mark against Centurions

Montana Tech got a workout and some lab experimentation done Saturday in a 113-76 non-conference college men’s basketball win over fledgling Yellowstone Christian College in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Box Score

Yellowstone Christian, based in Billings, is a first-year program.

“It was for us, just trying to get better,” Pat O’Herron, head coach of the Orediggers, said. “We’re trying to get better every game. We’re working on concepts and philosophies in practice, then trying to bring them to the game from practice. We had a little bit of a lull there before halftime, but I thought, in the second half, we were more consistent.”

Montana Tech itself, is a young team as O’Herron has had to replace eight players gone from last year because of graduations and other reasons for departures, and is working new recruits into the program. He acknowledged that the process is in industrial mode right now as the Orediggers have gathered some good raw material they are working at turning into a finished product.”

“We have only one senior (6-foot-8 post Paul Engstrom),” O’Herron said. “So, I’m not looking to make a finished product in a month. Right now, we’re just trying to get better with the basics, then go from there.”

The production was explosive as Cruz Ginns Jr. scored 26 points, Jalen Coates tallied 20, and Engstrom and Lukas Vining had 17 apiece. Montana Tech roared to a 53-44 halftime lead after having enjoyed margins of 20 points through much of the first half. The last such difference was 38-18 after a Vining jumper with 5 minutes, 33 seconds to go until intermission.

“We have some athleticism and we have some quickness,” O’Herron said. “When we get some people back in the next few weeks, we’ll have some more size, too.  “Right now, I’m more worried about IQ stuff than the physical stuff. We lost eight guys from last year and that’s a lot of basketball IQ. Those were guys who were in the program three or four years. So, as long as we see a growth, we’ll keep working and working.”

Yellowstone Christian closed the half with a good flurry. A run of 10 unanswered points by the Centurions cut the Oredigger advantage to 52-11 with 32 seconds on the first-half clock. Keegan Oyugi led the Yellowstone Christian surge with eight of the points. He went on to finish with a game-high 28.

Coates sank a free throw for Montana Tech before Dusan Spasojevic, from Belgrade, Serbia, canned a 3-point shot for the Centurions to end the half.

Montana Tech was able to break away in the first four minutes of the second half. Vining scored the first three points of the half and, after Yellowstone Christian answered with a Darius Jenkins basket and Oyugi steal and layup, the Orediggers reeled off eight consecutive points. Six came on three tough inside shots, two by Engstrom and one by Carson Dummer. The 6-5 Ginns tacked on a steal and dunk.

Stefan Tellis hit from outside for the Centurions and then the Orediggers responded with an Engstrom short drive to the hoop, and a reverse layup by Coates to cap a baseline drive. Montana Tech led 68-50 and had control the rest of the way.

The Orediggers reached the century mark against the Centurions on a jumper from the side by Engstrom as the 30-second buzzer sounded. The shot came with 4:36 left and put the score at 100-68. Montana Tech outscored Yellowstone Christian 13-8 the rest of the way.

“We had fun and I think it was exciting for the people who were here,” O’Herron said.

The coach admitted the Orediggers still have a lot to hone before taking on Frontier Conference opposition a ways down the schedule.

“Without question, we have work to do,” he said. “We’re giving up a lot of points. We’re also scoring a lot of points, but that will get a lot harder to do when conference competition starts.

“So, now, it’s all about getting better and learning. It’s a process — getting better and better.”

The Orediggers out-rebounded Yellowstone Christian 51-36 as Dummer pulled down 10 and Ginns nine. Coates dished six assists, and he and Ginns pilfered three steals apiece.

Jenkins scored 20 points to back Oyugi in the Centurions’ columns. Austin Laborin had 10 points and nine rebounds. Oyugi dealt four assists and came up with three steals.

Montana Tech will leave Thursday for a Friday game against Houston, an NCAA Division I entry coached by former Montana Tech mentor Kelvin Sampson, whose signature adorns the HPER Complex basketball court in recognition of his continued support of the Oredigger program.

O’Herron said the trip will include taking the team to see the Memphis-Houston college football game matching Top 25 powers, and to a Dallas Mavericks-Houston Rockets NBA contest. Also, meetings with Montana Tech alumni living in Texas will be part of the activities. 2 comments

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  • otis
    November 7, 2015, 7:01 pm

    To correct Coach O’Herrron, there were 5 seniors gone from last year. 3 additional underclassmen left the program.

  • otis
    November 8, 2015, 11:19 am

    Thank you for rewriting and making corrections to your article.


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