By Bruce Sayler
It is not often a college basketball team cracks the 100-point mark two times in its first three games, and so there was plenty for head coach Carly Sanon to like about Montana Tech’s 101-63 victory on Friday.
The Orediggers came after Nueta, Hidatsa, Sahnish College in waves in their game played as as part of the Montana Tech Tip-Off Tournament in the HPER Complex.
“We played a lot of people,” Sanon started with the list. “A lot were getting experience. We had 22 assists, so I felt like we moved the ball well.”
“Mesa Williams, a true freshman, played really well tonight. It was good to see her hit some 3s and have a breakout game. Sammy (McGree) had 19 points against the Bobcats the other night, then turned around with a solid 14 tonight. She is coming off that knee injury getting her spring back in her step.”
Montana Tech opened its season with a 102-32 lambasting of Yellowstone Christian, a Billings college, on Oct. 21. The Orediggers then lost 86-64 to NCAA Division I Montana State Wednesday night.
The Montana Tech start was sizzling against Nueta, Hidatsa, Sahnish, a college from New Town, North Dakota. Kourtney Coverdell tallied the first two points of the game and then assisted on her twin sister Kaylynn’s first HPER Complex basket of the season.
Shay Potter stuck a rebound home for the next basket and Monica Landdeck then netted a short jumper. Four different Orediggers had scored in a game-opening 8-0 run.
The Storm recovered for a driving basket by Tayla Belgarde. However, the quarter ended with Montana Tech controlling a 26-15 lead.
Kourtney Coverdell’s basket were the first of the game and Butte freshman Mollie Peoples registered the last with a 3-pointer to put the Orediggers past the century mark with only 4 seconds left on the clock.
In between, a lot of Orediggers got in some time, and Nueta Hidatsa stood in a played hard against them.
The Strom couldn’t muster much of a rally or surge against the Orediggers, benefitting from a longer bench, and good defensive play. The Orediggers doubled their margin to 41-20 on a three-point play conversion by Hannah Sparks with 3 minutes, 19 seconds left in the first half.
At halftime, the score was 54-29.
Montana Tech then connected for the first two baskets of the second half as Potter delivered from inside and Landdeck dialed in a trey from the outer range.
The gap widened steadily and Montana Tech had a 78-42 cushion through three quarters.
Montana Tech’s defensive advantage was outside, but Nueta Hidatsa packed the key well to battle the Orediggers under the hoop and create traffic jams that benefitted the Storm.
“Defensively, they were a lot bigger than us,” Sanon said. “Our hoop-sync stuff wasn’t there. They got a lot of easy baskets around the rim.”
A lot of reserves played for Montana Tech in the second half and they held the lead, even added to it, in the final frame. Williams, the 5-foot-10 freshman from White Sulphur Springs, maneuvered for a 3-point play, buried a 3-point sot and took a feed from Peoples for an easy bucket in a run. The only Nueta Hidatsa answer was a three-point play by Shayla Gayton.
Helena freshman Hailey Crawford’s fast-break basket from a Peoples steal capped the Oredigger surge. It also opened up a 92-51 difference, the largest of the game.
Sanon gave the Storm credit for the battle.
“They’re big and they really tried to spread us out,” she said. “That’s why our hoop-sync is really important. Our players weren’t there when we needed them to be.”
The shooting was strong. The Storm made 53 percent of its field goal tries, but hit on only one of five from 3-point range. Montana Tech made 48 percent of its floor shots, including 50 percent from beyond the arc. The Orediggers were 50 percent from the field in the first half while the regulars and top subs were on the hardwood.
“We shot really well from the field, from 3-point and from the foul line,” Sanon said. “I think we’re pretty deep. It is important now to get our younger kids experience early.”
Montana Tech placed five scorers in double figures — including four with 14 each, Landdck, Kourtney Coverdell, McGree and Williams. Sparks finished with 11. Sparks and Kourtney Coverdell dished five assists each. Kaylee Zard led the team in rebounds with seven in an off-the-bench performance. Potter and Williams pulled down six each. Kourtney Coverdell plucked four steals. The Orediggers will play Dickinson State at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the HPER Complex.
Nueta Hidatsa was led by Jess Hale with 15 points, Belgarde and Gayton with 14 each and Lanaya Driftwood with 11. Hale also etched team-highs of six rebounds, four assists and two steals into the stat sheet. The Storm will play Montana Western at 9 a.m. on Saturday in the HPER Complex.