By Bruce Sayler
Monica Landdeck’s hot hand flamed a little fiercer as she led Montana Tech to a Frontier Conference college women’s basketball victory Saturday.
The 5-foot-9 junior from Brewster, Washington, canned four 3-point baskets during a 29-point performance that pushed the Orediggers to their 75-68 win over Great Falls in the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
Landdeck, a transfer from North Idaho College in Coeur d’Alene, said she thought it was her “best all-around game,” even better than her eight 3-pointers in a 102-35 non-conference triumph over Yellowstone Christian in her Montana Tech debut that began the current season.
“”So far, yeah, I think it is,” she said. “I didn’t know I was having that kind of game until my coach (Carly Sanon) told me. It’s a great feeling to be fed the ball like that. Hattie (Thatcher) just kept getting the ball to me.”
Even with all the points, though, it might have been a defensive play Landdeck made that pleased her coach even more.
“We played really hard,” Sanon said. “We talked about that today, about how bad do we want it. You saw Monica. She dove on the ball at the end.”
Landdeck hit the ball — and the floor — with a boom when Orediggers and Argonauts were locked in a loose-ball scrum under the Montana Tech basket. She scattered three Great Falls players with the effort and came away with the possession, drawing a foul in the process.
Like most of the games the Orediggers have played against established programs this season, it was a competitive struggle. Neither team gave Anything.
“Our practices are way intense,” Sanon said about preparing for the Frontier Conference schedule and the consideration that depth and/or fitness on Montana Tech’s part tipped the Saturday result the Orediggers’ way. “There are no easy teams in our conference.”
Great Falls held a size advantage over Montana Tech with the likes of 6-foot-4 Whitney George and 6-3 Kalani Ulufale.
“We were to focus on rebounding,” Landdeck said, still excited by the hard-fought win. “We worked on our rebounding and on blocking out. We can compete with anybody. Tonight, we beat the No. 18 team in the country. I think we showed we can compete with a Top 5 team.”
The loss was the Argos’ second in a row after a 9-0 start on the season. They fell 99-74 at seventh-ranked Lewis-Clark State Thursday night in their Frontier Conference opener.
“Monica is a great player,” Sanon said. “She hit some big 3s and we’ve had her working on going to the hoop more.”
Landdeck’s rebounding helped the Orediggers tie Great Falls 36-all in the boards department. Martha Dembek, who allied 12 points, led Montana Tech in rebounds with six as the work was well-distributed. Rachel Farris and Kourtney Coverdell scored 10 points each, and Kaylee Zard had four points and four rebounds, all boards coming on the defensive end. Plus, Sanon credited her with “beating up” the Argonauts’ athletic and tall Nnadi. Nnadi had 16 points, but was limited to two rebounds.
The teams stayed well within a short arm’s length of each other throughout. The widest gap was a 22-13 Oredigger lead at the end of the first quarter after a 6-0 run on baskets by Dembek and Landdeck around two free throws by Zard.
Great Falls won the second quarter, but never led. They shot 52 percent from the field for the first half, which ended with the Orediggers ahead by 32-28. A surge by the Argos reeled a Montana Tech lead of 10 points back to two, 30-28. Nnadi, Kelani Ulufale, Kailee Wilson and 5-2 Darah Huertas-Vining scored in the spree. Kourtney Coverdell netted a 12-foot jumper for the last two points of the half.
The game was almost basket-for-basket the rest of the way, A quick, intense third quarter saw the game score tied three times before Great Falls gained its first lead, 52-51, on a drive to the hoop by Huertas-Vining. Farris answered for Montana, then Wilson put back a rebound for an Argo hoop. Landdeck’s layin off a pass from Kaylynn Coverdell following a steal tallied the last points of the frame. Montana Tech led 55-54 going into the fourth quarter.
Kaylynn Coverdell hit two quick buckets to open the Oredigger lead to 59-54, then Great Falls chained six in a row as Huertas-Vining looped in a shot over the Montana Tech defense beneath the basket to start the surge. Ulufale and Nnadi also scored baskets as the Argos took a 60-59 edge.
Landdeck took the lead back with a 10-footer. Stephanie McDonagh drove the hoop for Great Falls’ last lead, 62-61, with 5 minutes, 43 seconds left in the game. Montana Tech went on a nine-point spree with Dembek, Landdeck, Kourtney Coverdell and Zard all scoring. Only a little more than two minutes remained and Montana Tech protected the advantage well enough to chalk up the win.
It was the Orediggers’ first in conference play and ran their record to 7-6, 1-1 in league. The conference loss was to Montana State-Northern, 66-63, Thursday night in another rouser.
“We needed that win after Thursday and that loss,” Landdeck said. “This was a great win, over No. 18 in the nation.”
Thatcher finished with five points and a highlight of 11 assists in helping the Orediggers. Kaylynn Coverdell had four points, and Callee Remsen sank a free throw. Kimi Heng, Bailley Armbruster and Shay Potter also contributed to the Montana Tech win.
George scored 13 points to back Nnadi in the Great Falls point totals. McDonagh had 12 and Wilson 11.
“We’ve had hard practices,” Sanon said with a gasp when the possibility that all of the Orediggers’ conference tilts may be similar to the tough, intense ones they played this week. “I’ll have gray hairs. I don’t know if I can take it.”
She was, of course, joking. The games will be tough, and odds are pretty good the coach and team will hold up to the challenge.
Montana Tech’s next game will be a non-conference contest with Idaho State of the NCAA Division I Big Sky Conference on Dec. 16 in Pocatello, Idaho. They will then play three conference games on the road before returning home to take on Montana Western on Jan. 5 in a Frontier rivalry renewal.