V-Hawks deny Orediggers

By Bruce Sayler 

Temperatures in Butte tumbled Sunday in time for Halloween, but they probably still weren’t as chilly as the inside of Montana Tech’s locker room after the women’s basketball team lost. 

The Orediggers fell 70-65 to Viterbo University of LaCrosse, Wisconsin, in a non-conference game at the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Viterbo had been 0-2 going into the contest with losses of 83-60 at Rocky Mountain in Billings and 81-44 at Carroll in Helena. The V-Hawks were on a playing tour through Montana. (Stats)

The Orediggers had an 0-1 record, but the loss was to highly ranked Southeastern University of Florida last Sunday. They gave a good account of themselves in the 78-65 defeat. 

“It all starts in practice,” Montana Tech head coach Carly Sanon said after the loss to Viterbo. “We had a tough week in practices. We played well against a top five team last weekend and we didn’t bring it in practice this week, we didn’t compete in practice. It’s a long season and we will learn some hard lessons. 

“Today, we learned to be ready to go and get ready in practice.” 

The Orediggers spotted the V-Hawks a 6-0 opening lead and was in scramble mode most of the afternoon. A free throw by Kaitlyn Kennedy marked the first point of the game and was followed by a 3-point basket from Sophie Leinfelder. Calette Lockington capped the early spurt with a driving layup. 

A turnaround jump shot from within the key by Celestine “Mia” Faletoi put Montana Tech on the scoreboard. The game tightened and was a 17-14 difference with Viterbo ahead at the quarter break. 

Montana Tech caught up at the start of the second quarter. Butte Central alum Mollie Peoples netted a 3-pointer from the corner to tie the score. She then knocked down a short-range jumper and the Orediggers had their first lead of the contest. 

Kennedy knotted the score with mid-ranger before Faletoi gave Montana Tech a 23-19 advantage with two free throws and then a layup fed her on a pass from Dani Urick. The V-Hawks, though, scored eight in a row to reel the Orediggers back into the fray. Butte High grad Ally Cleverly canned a 3-pointer for a 35-31 Montana Tech lead with 18 seconds left in the half before Ellie Hoesley responded for Viterbo, driving the key and muscling in a bucket. It narrowed the Orediggers’ halftime margin to 35-33. 

The teams traded mini-surges through much of the third quarter and Montana Tech’s last lead was 44-42 after a 3-pointer by Urick. The clock showed 5 minutes, 4 seconds left in the third quarter. 

Viterbo ran off six unanswered points as Chyna Young drove the key for a basket and sank two free throws, then 6-foot-3 Nicole Johnson scored from inside. The V-Backs had a 52-46 advantage after a layup Helena Capital alum Kacie Gross tallied sent them on to the fourth quarter. 

The Orediggers made a run at Viterbo through the fourth period. A basket by Brooke Heggie was followed by a Peoples 3-pointer as Montana Tech scrapped to within 63-62 of the lead with 2:27 left in the game. The V-Hawks converted only four of eight free throws down the stretch, but they were enough to hold the lead. Montana Tech scored just three points after the last Peoples trey – a foul shot Urick made with 1:07 left, and a short jumper by Heggie at the buzzer. 

Young and Gross meshed a free throw each for Viterbo in the last minute, and Kennedy caged two. 

Sanon tried a variety of personnel combinations to lift the Orediggers past the visitors. Few seemed to work. 

“We’re trying to find (the chemistry) for us, trying some different things,” she said. “We were trying to see everybody. But, today, too, we were just trying to find a spark. We need to find out which players are playing well.” 

Peoples led Montana Tech with 15 points and three steals. Heggie scored 16 poins and pulled down 10 rebounds, and Tavia Rooney collected 11 rebounds and three steals to go with six points. Faletoi left the game with an injury in the fourth quarter after scoring eight points. Cleverly contributed nine points and three assists to the effort. Urick had five points, and Maddie Allen, Jaden Comings and Aubrie Rademacher scored two apiece. McKayla Kloker, Megan Delaney and Soda Rice also played. 

“Mollie and Brooke both had big nights for us, which was nice to see,” Sanon said. “Brooke bounced back from last week, which was also nice to see.” 

Sanon added that she did not think Faletoi’s injury will cause her to miss much or any time this week. The Orediggers are to play Montana State-Billings in Billings on Monday afternoon before returning to Butte to play Walla Walla on Thursday and William Jessup on Friday in the Montana Tech Tip-Off event. 

Gross led Viterbo with 14 points and nine rebounds. Kennedy had 12 points, and Young finished with nine points and six rebounds for the V-Hawks. Hoesley had eight points, and Johnson rejected six Oredigger shots. 

Viterbo enjoyed a large advantage at the foul line, where it went 19-for-26,  compared to 8-for-12 converted by the Orediggers.