Tech women surge past William Jessup for win

By Bruce Sayler 

Clutch performances at most important times marked Montana Tech’s victory in college women’s basketball Friday. 

The Orediggers won their second game in a row while topping William Jessup of Rocklin, California, 68-56 in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. It capped the Montana Tech Tip-Off Classic held Thursday and Friday in the facility. (Stats)

“It was a great win, a great team win,” Carly Sanon, head coach of the Orediggers, said. “Tavia (Rooney) had a double-double with 20 points and 10 rebounds for us, and she did a lot for us, too, on the defensive end. Mollie Peoples hit some big 3s when we needed them. Brooke Heggie had a big night for us all night down low.” 

Mostly, they and their teammates scrapped and held poise against a formidable opponent that was fast, quick and full of good shooters. 

An 8-0 run at the end of the first quarter lifted William Jessup to a 19-12 lead. The Warriors were clicking and looked capable of growing their advantage. Six-foot post Monica Valenzuela scored eight points in the first frame, including the last two in the end-of-quarter surge right after JoeLyn Stirton drilled a pair of 3-point basket.
A drive for layup by Natalie Moulos made the difference nine points, 19-12. Rooney sank two free throws, but Kayla Vieira knocked down a 3-pointer and the Warriors owned a 24-14 spread with 9 minutes, 5 seconds left in the first half. 

The Orediggers didn’t let the difference get any bigger. They whittled to five points after a 3-pointer by Peoples and a free throw by Rooney. It was a 35-30 score with 55 seconds to go to intermission. William Jessup was ahead by 39-32 at halftime. 

“I was happy with how well we held our composure,” Sanon said. “We were down by seven points at halftime and we talked about chipping away at their lead getting back in position to win in the fourth quarter. We did that.” 

The Orediggers did it sooner, actually. They reeled off the first nine points of the second half and owned a 43-39 edge three minutes into the third quarter. Dani Urick ignited the surge with a drive to the hoop, then Rooney came up with a steal she took in for a layup. Rooney then tipped a loose-ball rebound to Heggie, who scored it. Heggie kicked the ball outside to Peoples who meshed a 3-pointer, and Rooney finished the run by making two foul shots. 

Montana Tech didn’t give up the lead, though the Warriors challenged it constantly into the waning moments.  

Valenzuela converted a steal for a layup to cut the Oredigger lead to 45-44, but Ally Cleverly responed for Montana Tech with a 3-point basket. Rooney rebounded a miss and stuck it back through the hoop a couple minutes later and, after two Stirton charity tosses funneled through, the Orediggers took a 50-46 lead into the fourth quarter. 

A 12-5 run by Montana Tech put the Warriors away. Peoples led the surge with back-to-back treys after Urick and Rooney each converted two freebies. Urick netted two more to finish the run. A layup by Valenzuela and a 3-ball by Stirton were William Jessup’s response and it lacked. 

The Oredigger defense tightened and Peoples frustrated the Warriors’ fast break by negating two layups drawing charges. Both were significant collisions. 

“Mollie took two charges for us tonight that were game-changers,” Sanon commented. “(The Warriors) are fast and they’re quick and they are good shooters. Having great 3-point shooters is one of their strengths.” 

Montana Tech defended the 3-ball well, though, and held William Jessup to 6-of-21 from the arc.  

Peoples finished with 12 points to back Rooney’s production. Heggie had 14 points, and Urick wound up with 11 points and nine rebounds. The Orediggers dominated rebounds, 40-25. Rooney also dished five assists and clobbered five blocks in a starring role.  

Cleverly scored eight points, and Madison Allen, McKayla Kloker, Megan Delaney, Jaden Comings and Aubrie Rademacher also played as Montana Tech went to 2-2 for the season. The Orediggers will be home on Wednesday against nationally ranked Bushnell of Eugene, Oregon.  

William Jessup is now 3-2 for the season and was led Friday by Valenzuela with 19 points and Stirton with 18. Valenzuela also had eight rebounds, and Bobbie Purify collected three steals.