By Bill Foley
The intimidation factor might have been in play Tuesday night.
Montana Tech’s women’s basketball team gave Montana Western all it could handle during the second half of the Frontier Conference game at the HPER Complex.
For much of the first half, though, the mystic of the No. 3-ranked Bulldogs was too much for Orediggers as Western won its seventh straight game, topping Tech 70-57. (Stats)
“In that first half, we looked a little timid,” Tech coach Carly Sanon said. “We played a little scared.”
The Bulldogs took advantage of that at the end of the first half, closing the second quarter with a 14-0 run to turn a 29-23 game into a 43-23 Bulldog advantage.
“I kind of chewed them at halftime about that,” Sanon said of her team’s nervous play.
The Orediggers responded, holding the Bulldogs to just three field goals in the third quarter. Tech outscored Western 19-8 in the frame, crawling back to within 51-42.
“All of a sudden when we play, it’s a whole different ballgame,” Sanon said. “We have to make sure every game we come out ready to go.”
The Bulldog lead, however, was too much for the Orediggers to overcome, even if they might have been proving to themselves that they can play with one of the best teams in the NAIA.
“You go down the line, it’s all seniors who played in the Final Four,” Sanon said of the Bulldogs, who received first-place votes in Tuesday’s NAIA Coaches Top 25 Poll. “They’re coming into every game like they have all the confidence in the world. We just came out and played a little timid and scared. Once we flipped that switch in that third quarter, it looked pretty even.”
Brianna King hit a pair of free throws to start the decisive run, which came after Tech’s Mollie Peoples knocked down a 3-poitner to pull Tech to within 29-23.
King capped the run by scoring off a nice pass by Savanna Bignell, who just stole the ball 6 seconds in the second quarter.
King, who was named Frontier Conference Player of the Week for the seventh time in eight weeks Monday, tossed in 21 points to lead the Bulldogs to their seventh straight win. Paige Holmes, Britt Cooper and Ciera Lamey each scored 10.
Western coach Lindsay Woolley wasn’t happy with the way his team played as the Bulldogs ran their record to 19-1 overall and 10-1 in conference play.
“We didn’t move it. We didn’t get in a rhythm offensively,” Woolley said. “We had that four-minute stretch where we kind of burst it.
“I didn’t feel like our energy ready was really high,” the coach added. “It’s probably because we weren’t getting stops. Our offense usually feeds off our defense.”
Oredigger junior post Kaylee Zard had another solid performance, scoring 11 points and grabbing 10 rebounds to lead the Orediggers (12-10, 2-9).
Hailey Crawford and Peoples each scored 11 points, while Mesa Williams scored nine, and Dani Urick tossed in seven. Tjaden Pallister scored four points
“Kaylee Zard played great tonight,” Sanon said. “She had a double-double. Mollie hit a bunch of threes that really helped us and got us going.”
Overall, Sanon is happy with her young team.
“I like where we’re at. We’ve just got fix some things,” Sanon said. “We’ve got to really talk about believing in what we’re doing and making sure all of our players believe that each game.”
Tech hits the road Wednesday for Thursday’s game at Lewis-Clark State in Lewiston, Idaho.
The Bulldogs head to Lewiston on Saturday.