Diggers reach milestones, fall in overtime thriller

Diggers reach milestones, fall in overtime thriller
Montana Tech freshman Tavia Rooney looks to shoot over Sara Muhelhausen of Lewis-Clark State Thursday night at the HPER Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bruce Sayler

Montana Tech standouts Tavia Rooney and Mesa Williams both found the deserved spotlight with their crowning step-up play Thursday night. However, 21st-ranked Lewis-Clark State found the bottom of the net last as the Warriors eked out a 62-60 overtime win in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. (Stats)

Hannah Burland corralled the carom of a blocked shots and stuck it through the hoop as the clock blinked to zeroes and ended the Frontier Conference college women’s basketball game.

Rooney, a 6-foot true freshman from Townsend, scored 20 points and pulled down 19 rebounds. A third-quarter rebound broke the Oredigger women’s hoops record for boards in a season. She finished the game with 306 for this campaign, breaking the record of 292 that Connie Froke established in 1982.

Williams, a 5-10 junior from White Sulphur Springs, joined the Montana Tech career 1,000-point club mid-range jumper at 5 minutes, 38 seconds of the first quarter. The shot was her first basket of the game and increased an Oredigger lead to 8-2. Williams went on to finish with 12 points, including two free throws at the end of regulation time to send the game into overtime. She has 1,011 points in her Montana Tech career and is the 18th Oredigger with more than 1,000.

Williams sank a foul shot at 4:46 of the overtime to put the Orediggers in front. Celestina Faletoi knocked down a short jumper and Montana Tech was ahead by 60-57 with 1:52 left.

Peyton Souvenir responded for L-C State with a 3-point basket, tying the score at the 1:40 mark.

An Oredigger miss at the other end was rebounded by Warrior Abbie Johnson, but Lewis-Clark was unable to convert the opportunity. A Souvenir miss was rebounded by Rooney. Dani Urick’s 3-point attempt was just off and the 6-2 Johnson took down the rebound.

Souvenir missed again from trey-land and Rooney collected her 19th rebound. The Orediggers lost the ball on a steal and Souvenir drove toward the hoop as time melted away. Her shot was blocked by Mollie Peoples, but Burland gathered up the loose ball and put it through the hoop at the buzzer.

“They’re a nationally ranked team and we gave them everything they could handle,” Montana Tech head coach Carly Sanon said. “I thought everything was similar across the board in the stats and, they’re a great team. We had open looks that didn’t fall for us, and (the Warriors) had some fall in.”

It was the 18th win of the season for Lewis-Clark State against just seven losses. The Warriors needed time to wrestle the lead away from Montana Tech and then looked to be gaining control as time ran down on what was the Orediggers’ last home game of the season.

Montana Tech wasn’t done. The Orediggers stayed in the game.

Montana Tech led 14-11 after one quarter and enjoyed its biggest lead at 14-8 until the Warriors closed the quarter with three points by Columbia Falls product Kiara Burlage.

Two Burlage charity tosses at 3:50 of the second quarter gave the Warriors the lead, 22-21. They held a 28-26 edge at halftime. Burlage’s freebies came in a 9-0 run the Orediggers countered at the end of the half with a 3-0 spurt on a Williams free throw and a Urick drive.

Montana Tech played without regular post Kaylee Zard, who injured a leg Tuesday night. The Orediggers were already without point guard Megan Delaney because of injury.

“We’ve had injuries and illnesses keeping players out, but the players have always adjusted,” Sanon said. “We might’ve had a little fatigue tonight (because of the fewer available players), and it was Lewis-Clark State’s first game of the week. But, I really can’t think that way, just because we still played a great game. We had a lot of players step up, and we were still able to put our three shooters out on the perimeter. Mesa being able to play the perimeter is a really big help.”

The Warriors took a 44-36 into the last period and widened the margin to 10 points on a basket by Johnson.

Montana Tech stormed back. Williams canned a 3-pointer, then Rooney notched six straight points, four on rebound baskets, and the other two on free throws. Souvenir shot in a 3-pointer for L-C State, then Rooney scored again on a rebound she turned into a basket. The score was 48-47 in Lewis-Clark State’s favor with 6:01 on the clock.

The teams played mostly basket-for-basket, including trading 3-pointers by Souvenir and Williams, to a 53-all tie as Peoples drained a trey for the Orediggers.

Urick nailed a pullup jumper and Montana Tech had a 55-53 edge at the 1:46 spot. Both teams had chances to tally, but were denied until Souvenir worked a basket-and-one for a 56-55 edge. Jansen Edmisten caged a foul shot and the Warrior lead was two points with only 19 seconds showing.

Williams drew a foul from Burlage to go to the charity stripe with 2 seconds on the clock. She calmly netted both tosses and time ran out before L-C State could launch a shot.

Overtime arrived.

“We got off to a slow start, but as soon as Hannah got in the game, we got it going on both ends,” Lewis-Clark State head coach Brian Orr said. “Even though I felt like we were in control for most of the game, you just knew Tech was going to make a run.”

As Sanon referenced, the stats were pretty even. The Warriors made 24 field goals to the Orediggers’ 23. They were 5-for-22 and 5-for-24, respectively, from 3-point range and 9-for-12 and 9-for-13 from the foul line. Montana Tech had a 49-44 rebounding advantage and they dead-even in turnovers, and showed a difference of one in steals.

L-C State showed a definite advantage in height, but still lost the rebounds battle.

“We really focused on that in practice,” Sanon said. “We had been having games, recently, where we giving up 20 boards. Tonight, though, we were blocking out and pushing back better. Tavia had a great game, tonight.”

The Orediggers have two games left in the regular season and Sanon said the team is anxious for another victory.

“We’re very hungry,” she said.

Urick also finished with 12 points for Montana Tech, Peoples had eight, Faletoi six, and Hailey Crawford two. Hope Lalau and Jaden Comings also saw floor time. The Orediggers are 14-14 for the season, including 4-12 in the Frontier Conference. They will finish the schedule with games at Montana Western next Thursday and Rocky Mountain on February 29.

Lewis-Clark State went to 10-5 in league play.

“Tavia Rooney dominated the offensive glass, and Mesa Williams and Mollie Peoples hit two big 3s (in the fourth quarter),” Orr said. “Our defense stepped it up in overtime and Hannah saved us with a steal and put-back at the buzzer. It was definitely a gritty win.”

The Warriors were led by Souvenir with 16 points, Burland with 14, Burlage 13 and Johnson with 10.



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