Western men roll in HPER

If Montana Western’s shooters would have been standing on the old pitcher’s mound at the former Alumni Coliseum baseball park located across the parking lot from the Montana Tech HPER Complex, the Bulldogs would likely still have been scoring 3-pointers in men’s basketball Thursday night.
They canned 15 baskets out of 28 tries from 3-point range to blast host Montana Tech 90-68 in Frontier Conference college men’s hoops action. The loss snuffed the Orediggers’ post-season chances.
It seemed the farther away from the rims the Bulldogs cast off, the deadlier were their touches. Their passing to locate the open shot was way too fast for an Oredigger to defend with any hands in the face. The Bulldogs were dogged, too, about settling for nothing except the wide-open opportunity, whether it took no pass or five passes. Also, their shooters were plenty. Six different Montana Western players netted 3-pointers.
“They shot it extremely well from everywhere,” Montana Tech head coach Pat O’Herron said. “We talked about getting them off the 3-point line because they are a 3-point shooting team. We didn’t execute.”
The pace was set early, too, though Montana Tech seemed capable of keeping up with its opponent. The rivals combined to shoot 9-for-10 from the field in the first four minutes of the game as Montana Western took a 12-10 edge.
Two Tyler Miller treys triggered the Bulldogs’ run.
The early surge put Montana Western ahead for good as Jordan Overstreet broke a 10-all tie by making two free throws, the first ones awarded in the game.
Montana Tech then began to fall off, looked to count on guards Bryan Bock and Antonio Snow to create points with one-and-one drives and acrobatic shots and was unable to contain the Bulldogs. The Montana Western man to man defense was too sticky to allow the Oredigger backcourt stars to operate freely and so the Bulldogs gained the upper hand.
The long-range game dictated that the competition go outside. Little went to the posts and so the teams’ big men were relegated mostly to rebounding and screening. Occasionally, they stepped outside the key to cage a jumper.
Montana Western’s hot shooting, 53 percent in the first half, allowed for the Bulldogs to steadily build on their lead. It reached 15 points, at 40-25, on a pullup jumper by Maazin Butler with 1 minute, 57 seconds left in the first half. Kurtis Parsons then followed it with the team’s seventh trey of the half. Butler dialed in from long distance with 5 seconds left on the first-half clock and the Bulldogs led 46-27 at intermission.
“We didn’t compete in the first half,” O’Herron said. “We competed better in the second half and we got back in it a little bit, but then we had three turnovers in a row.”
Bock backed off from creating or forcing the shot in the second half and used his creative driving and acrobatics to, instead, draw the defense and open chances for other Orediggers, whom he fed with spot-on passes.
The combination worked to push the team much closer, squeezing the margin tighter.
A 9-0 Montana Tech run saw the Orediggers slice their deficit to 13 points, 54-41, with just under 15 minutes left in the game. They kept up the pressure and had the difference down to seven points, 61-54, after a goal-tending call against a Bulldog leaper counted a basket for Montana Tech. Bock was credited.
However, Jordan Overstreet stole and Oredigger pass near midcourt and drove for an easy layin. Overstreet then connected on a 3-pointer before stealing the ball again on a play similar to his prior theft. He was fouled this time going to the hoop, but still funneled through a free throw.
One more time, the Orediggers turned the ball over in the frontcourt — on a steal by Kris Castro, who raced the distance for another layin. The burst widened Montana Western’s advantage to 69-54 with 7:14 on the clock.
Montana Tech bounced back with six straight points on two baskets by Travis Peevey and one by Adam Greger. Montana Western, though, outscored the Orediggers 11-2 over the next three minutes and secured the victory.
Bock giving the ball up for team-wide scoring opportunities, O’Herron agreed, was important to Montana Tech’s second-half comeback.
“We also pressured the ball, put our spaces on the floor and played team basketball,” the coach said. “We got closer. Then, we tried to do it ourselves and we’re not very good without a partner.”
Butler finished with 23 points to lead Montana Western, which also received 17 points from Miller and 16 from Overstreet. The Bulldogs shot a wicked 56 percent from the field for the game. They were called for just 10 fouls and committed only 11 turnovers in playing very well.
The Orediggers shot 49 percent from the game. Greger and Snow shared scoring honors with 17 points apiece, Brandon Rydberg finished with eight points, Peevey with seven, Bock with six, Trent Thompson five, and Marcus Payne and Keegan McCarthy, four apiece.
The Montana Western win put the Bulldogs at 15-10 for the season, 9-6 in Frontier Conference play. Montana Tech might be out of the playoffs, but the Orediggers can still finish with a .500 ledger. They will end their season on Saturday with a 7:30 league game against Westminster in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. The Orediggers are 13-14 this season and carry a 5-10 conference mark.

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