Skylights hold off Diggers

By Bruce Sayler 

In a game of droughts and flurries, Montana State-Northern came out a narrow winner of Montana Tech Thursday night. 

The 55-51 MSU-Northern win in the Montana Tech HPER Center ended the regular season for both Frontier Conference college women’s basketball teams.  (Stats)

League postseason playoffs will start Wednesday with the Orediggers going to to play Montana Western in Dillon while the Skylights will be on the road at Carroll in Helena. 

A desert wasteland of a third quarter went unquenched by Montana Tech even though the Orediggers flirted with a refreshed lead when Ally Cleverly’s 3-point basket off a kickout pass from Jaden Comings cut MSU-Northern’s lead to 47-46 with 5 minutes, 11 seconds left to play. 

The Cleverly rocket capped an 8-0 run keyed by Dani Urick’s continued torrid night. 

Urick was in record-book possession mode when she hit the HPER Complex floor. Her first five points of the night were also Montana Tech’s first five and gave her 1,000 for her four-year career. The last flurry, five in a row in front of Cleverly’s trey gave her 18 for the night. 

MSU-Northern had an answer. Sydney Hovde, one of three former Columbia Falls Wildkats in head coach Chris Mouat’s starting lineup, took two passes from Sydney Prather to the hoop for layups. 

The Orediggers didn’t go away, however, They launched another five-point run as Comings netted a free throw, Cleverly sank two foul shots and Brooke Heggie turned across the paint for a layup. The score was tied 51-all with 52 seconds on the clock. 

Hovde rebounded Heggie’s missed charity toss on the and-one attempt and the Skylights had possession. With 27 seconds to go, Heggie had to foul a driving L’Tia Lawrence. The 5-foot-9 freshman guard drained both freebies and MSU-Northern had the lead for good 

Montana Tech wasn’t allowed any clean looks and its last miss was pulled down by Hovde, the conference’s leading rebounder. She drew a foul from Celestina “Nia” Faletoi with 10 seconds to go, and netted both free throws to put the game out of Oredigger reach. 

“I thought it was a battle,” Montana Tech head coach Carly Sanon said. “The third quarter really hurt us. We had a lot of empty possessions.” 

The Orediggers held a 29-28 halftime edge, thanks to a Cleverly 3-pointer at the halftime horn. It followed a Mollie Peoples 3-pointer hit 1 minute earlier to erase what had been a 28-23 Skylight advantage. 

Urick’s drive to the hoop to begin the second half expanded the Montana Tech lead to three points, but then the offense vanished. MSU-Northern capitalized. 

The Skylights scored the next 10 points on the work of Hovde, Riley Kehr, Morgan Mason and Shyann Krass shot-making. Tavia Rooney’s made foul shot with only 39 seconds left in the third quarter ended the MSU-Northern run, but was only the third and last Oredigger point of the period. Ryley Kehr hit from inside again and the Skylight had taken a 40-32 lead going into the last quarter. 

“Our defense did a really good job of holding them to 55 points for the game,” Sanon said. “But, our offense disappeared for a while. 

“I’m really proud of Dani Urick with her 18 points tonight and 1,000 as a career starter for us. She usually guards the other team’s good player, too. She did a great job getting to the rim, tonight. 

“She needed five points (to reach 1,000 career) and she got them early.” 

Urick outscored the Skylights 5-2 over the first 2:07 of the game and ignited a Montana Tech run to a 12-8 edge. It disappeared, though, when MSU-Northern scored the last nine points of the first quarter, Mason and Krass doing the damage. 

The 17-12 lead MSU-Northern had gained with the surge was wipled out, then, by a 10-0 Oredigger spree to begin the second quarter. Heggie and Urick each scored four points in the eruption while Rooney garnered the other two. 

Then, another run occurred.  

The Skylights answered the Oredigger run with another 9-0 spurt keyed by Columbia Falls sisters Peyton and Ryley Kehr. It made for a 26-22 MSU-Northern edge until the late-in-the-half exchanges that wound up creating a 29-28 halftime lead in Oredigger favor. 

Montana Tech wound up with a 12-18 regular season and went 3-12 in conference play. Heggie had 10 points and nine rebounds in the regular-season finale. Cleverly had eight points, Rooney seven, Peoples three, Madison Allen and Faletoi two apiece, and Comings one. Soda Rice and McKayla Kloker also played. 

Montana State-Northern, finishing the regulars season at 9-20 overall and 2-13 in league play, was led by Hovde with 15 points and 13 rebounds, Ryley Kehr with 14 points, Mason 10 points and Krass with eight.