Orediggers battle to victory in NAIA tourney opener

WAXAHACHIE, Texas — The Orediggers are one win away from Kansas City.

Montana Tech battled to a hard-fought 71-67 win over Mid-American Christian Friday during the first round of the 2022 NAIA Men’s Basketball National Championship at the Sheaffer Center. (Stats)

The win means the Oredigger will play Southwestern Assemblies of God University or Central Methodist (Missouri) at 4:30 p.m. Saturday. The winner of that game goes to the Kansas City to join the final 16.

The victory is the first at the National Tournament in team history.

“We’re ecstatic,” Tech head coach Adam Hiatt said in a KBOW postgame radio interview. “We did it the way we’ve done it so many times this year. We defended at a high level.”

Senior Drew Huse, the hero of the Frontier Conference championship game, hit a 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 4 seconds left to give the Orediggers a 64-62 lead. It was a lead the Orediggers would not give up, thanks in large part to a key blocked shot by senior Taylor England.

In addition to relentless defense, the Orediggers also got a balanced attack on offense in a game that was tied at 30 at halftime.

Sophomore Caleb Bellach tossed in 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead the way. Senior Sindou Diallo scored 14 points to go along with six rebounds and six assists.

Huse finished with 10 points, and England joined senior Derrius Collins with nine points and six rebounds.

Also for the Orediggers, Keeley Bake and Michael Ure scored three points, and Camdyn LaRance, Christian Jones scored two apiece. Baumstarck also pulled down six rebounds.

Isaiah Hammons poured in 16 points, and Jasiah Lewis scored 15 points to lead the Evangels, who close the season at 20-13. Kendall Scott added 11 points and 11 rebounds.

The Orediggers will take their 27-6 record to the next round. That is already the most wins in team history.

It will take win No. 28 to go to Kansas City.

All Oredigger games are carried on KBOW (550 AM, 101.5 FM, kbow550.net or on the KBOW app).