Tech women ground Argonauts

The other half of Lindsie Wilson’s basketball coaching debuts is now complete. She got her first home win at the helm of the Montana Tech women’s team.
The Orediggers bottled up the University of Great Falls for a 75-67 Frontier Conference victory Friday night in the college hoops game played at the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
Montana Tech favored a post preference and more uptempo style of play in gaining the victory. The post style played to the major strengths of the Oredigger attack, but the faster brand of offense was a notch or two different from what Montana Tech fans had seen from the team in prior games this season.
Brighter points included Mandy Machinal joining the program’s 1,000-point club, Kelsey DeWit’s followup on a similar and recent accomplishment, Hattie Thatcher’s performance at point guard, Kabri Emerson’s very strong start and good overall play in the key, and ball-handling that kept turnovers minimal.
“I made our emphasis on coming to the ball,” Wilson, an interim coach promoted from No. 2 assistant after the Jan. 18 abrupt resignations of head coach DeAnn Craft and top assistant Kesha Watson, said about limiting the turnovers to 10. “Our players came and got the pass and I wanted us to make those passes, not worry about making turnovers.”
Machinal needed 14 points to reach 1,000 for her career at Montana Tech. The 5-foot-7 junior from Richland, Wash., scored 16, reaching the milestone at 14 minutes, 58 seconds of the second half on a 3-point basket. DeWit, a 6-2 senior from Columbia Falls, got there last Saturday in a 75-59 win at Dickinson State. DeWit’s feat was recognized between the women’s and men’s games on Friday. She has averaged 10 points and 7 rebounds a game as a four-year starter at Montana Tech and is the school’s all-time blocks leader with 131.
Thatcher dished four assists and committed just one turnover in quarterbacking the Oredigger offense. She also scored three points and chased down two rebounds. Emerson ignited the Orediggers. The 6-1 junior out of Butte High finished with 14 points and six rebounds, scoring nine of her points in the first 6: 31 of the game as Montana Tech snared a 15-10 advantage.
“Kabri was on fire and Kelsey played really well,” Wilson said of her two posts. “Another emphasis in our posts was to go to the free throw line. Instead of kicking the ball back outside to the perimeter, I wanted our posts to go strong inside. If we miss a layup, that’s OK. We’ll go to the free throw line.
“Great Falls has a center (Lindsey Abramson) averaging 17 points, so you have to want it, go after it. Our posts played well on offense and on defense.”
Both teams played well early. When the Oredigger starters needed substitutes, though, due to the faster, more tiring pace, the team’s play did fall off a little. Great Falls worked its way back when in danger of falling out of the game, instead.
The Argonauts benefited from a hot-handed 5-9 freshman, Nneka Nnadi, coming off the bench. The recruit from Spanaway Lake, Wash., scored a game-high 19 points and led the Great Falls comeback. She tallied eight points in a three-minute span that saw the Argonauts take the lead, 26-23, on a 3-point launch by Dara Huertas-Vining at 8:48 of the first half.
A fierce back-and-forth competition followed until the Orediggers took the lead for good, 33-31, on two free throws by Bryn Hasquet in the middle of a 14-6 Montana Tech run that capped the first half.
The Orediggers led 37-33 at halftime.
Great Falls fought back early in the second half and trailed by only 46-43 after answering a 9-3 Montana Tech spree with a run of seven unanswered. Erin Legel canned a 3-pointer to start the surge and Nnadi followed with two straight baskets.
Emerson drove on a crossover to the hoop, Machinal nailed her milestone 3-pointer and Martha Dembek finished the retaliation run with a scoop to the hoop on a drive though the key. The Orediggers held a 53-43 margin.
The Argonauts gathered one more rally. Another 7-2 spree sliced their deficit to 64-59 with 3:56 left to play. Harrison product Taylor Statton netted a trey in the middle of the run.
Kimi Heng entered the game for Montana Tech. The 5-5 freshman from Brisbane, Australia, caged a 3-point shot and then out-quicked the Great Falls defense for a driving layup on plays nearly a minute apart. The spark pushed the Oredigger lead back to 10 points and the team then iced the victory on free throws and rebounds, boarding missed Great Falls desperation 3-point attempts.
“Kimi Heng came in and played with confidence,” Wilson said with a smile. “From players 1 to 11, if I put you in the game, you have to go get the basketball and have confidence.”
Wilson attributed some of the first-half falloff by the reserves to them being a younger, freshman-laden unit that didn’t show an abundance of poise. The group, however, showed much better after intermission, once it became settled into the competition. DeWit wound up with 16 points and eight rebounds. Dembek scored nine points, Heng six, Sophia Baetz five, Hasquet four, Thatcher three and Callie Remsen two. Starter Shayla Mack totaled two rebounds and two assists.
The Orediggers squared their record at 8-8 for the season (2-1 under Wilson) and gave them a 4-5 mark in Frontier Conference play. It was their 15th straight win over Great Falls in a streak that dates back to the 2006-07 season. They will be home against Carroll on Saturday in a 5:30 league game set for the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Great Falls fell to 12-11 and 2-8 and the loss was the Argonauts’ fourth consecutive.
Legel hooped 16 points and Huertas-Vining had 12. Abramson was held to eight points, more than half off her average. She and Legel pulled down 10 rebounds apiece.

Box Score

Mandy Machinal looks on as Kabri Emerson goes up strong for a basket.

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