By Bruce Sayler
Frostys from Wendy’s were on the house Saturday night, providing the house was Adam Hiatt’s and they were for members of Adam Hiatt’s household.
That’s how good the Hiatt-coached Montana Tech men’s basketball win over Dickinson State was. It was of Wendy’s Frosty quality … approved. He wasn’t being selfish. He was being real.
“It’s been a long time since we’ve been able to celebrate a win against a good opponent,” Hiatt, the second-year Oredigger head coach, said.
He went on to explain the Frostys cold dessert shake relevance. Hiatt served a term as head coach at Westminster a few years before coming to Montana Tech. He said big wins were celebrated by his young family with a postgame trip to Wendy’s for Frostys. Hiatt said his son noticed last year that the trips to Wendy’s since coming to Butte were rather, uh, infrequent if at all.
“So, we’re going as soon as I get of here,” he said, “and they’re not even a sponsor of our tournament.”
The win that put the Orediggers at 3-0 for the year, not counting an exhibition loss at Utah, came in the second day of the inaugural Montana Tech Tip-Off Tournament in the HPER Complex. The Orediggers won both of their games in the tourney.
Beating Dickinson State, though, was the tastier part of the treat.
“We needed a signature win for our program,” Hiatt said, “to show our guys we’re going in the right direction. We came through in the clutch and guys are starting to believe in us. Where that takes us? I don’t know yet.”
The Orediggers led 36-32 at halftime, but needed a wakeup call early in the second half to find o the resolve they needed to pull out the win before an appreciative crowd. Winter driving conditions didn’t hold the attendance down as much as one might guess and the spectators stayed through a contest that sometimes seemed to languish through slow marches between free throw lines in foul-marred play.
Terrell Butler converted a three-point play opportunity to put the Blue Hawks ahead 40-39 with 18 minutes, 14 seconds left in the game. Montana Tech’s immediate response was a 3-point basket by Chris O’Neill to regain the lead, followed by Jake Miles’ steal and layup. Dickinson State never caught up again.
The spread reached 10 points at 54-44 when 5-foot-8 Nick Fritts connected from 3-point range. John Chapman followed with a driving layup and the Orediggers were playing well.
Chapman finished with 20 points, 17 scored in the second half. O’Neill picked up his shiny all-around game from where he left off last season. His Saturday totals included 27 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists.
Hiatt paid compliment to Chapman for his stepping up into a great performance, and added, “Chris O’Neill again played great and is a great two-way player.”
Hiatt and the Orediggers got a good look at Dickinson State on Friday in the tourney when the Blue Hawks fell 106-99 in overtime to Montana Western’s vaunted program.
“We knew we better be dialed in defensively to have a chance against these guys,” Hiatt said. “We made enough plays on offense to keep our lead. Of course, it doesn’t hurt when you can make 14 threes.:
The Orediggers were 14-for-27 from 3-point range. Overall, they shot just above 50 percent from the field.
Montana Tech’s biggest lead was 17 points, 79-62 with 4:20 to go after Taylor England spun his way to the rim.
“When your best players step in big moments, it is easier for the younger players to contribute,” Hiatt said.
Miles finished with 14 points and Dylan Pannabecker netted 12 to back O’Neill and Chapman in the Montana Tech scoring totals. Chapman and England pulled down five rebounds each. England and Carson Dummer each dished three assists, accenting the team’s inside passing prowess. Pannabecker and O’Neill each had three steals.
Montana Western transfer Brian Neal led the Blue Hawks with 21 points and was backed by Butler and Marcus White with 14 points each. Ryan Clark grabbed a game-high nine rebounds and former Oredigger Akeem Williams passed out five assists. Williams joined the Dickinson State program prior to this season.
The Orediggers will travel to Lewiston, Idaho to compete in a tourney next weekend. They will play Warner Pacific on Friday and Portland Bible College on Saturday.