Not Your Average Joe
I've Seen Fire and I've Seen Rain
Back Roads Fever
AROUND THE OVAL
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
About the Montanan
by Rick Stern
The Lady Griz finished their season at 21-9 and advanced to the final game of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, where they lost to host Idaho State 68-59. It was the eighteenth time in nineteen years that the Lady Griz advanced to the tournament's championship game. Montana's March 10th loss to the Lady Bengals, however, was only the team's fourth loss in tournament championship contests. "When you have a successful program, people come to expect you to win every year," Selvig said. "Unfortunately, you don't get to be champion every year. You don't get to host the conference tournament every year."
With an 11-5 record during Big Sky Conference play, the Lady Griz finished third in the conference behind Idaho State and Montana State. The Lady Griz lost both regular-season games to the Lady Bengals, who won all of their Big Sky regular-season games (16-0) and advanced to the women's NCAA Tournament with a 21-game winning streak, the longest of any team in the nation - women's or men's.
The Lady Griz represented themselves well at the Big Sky Tournament in Pocatello. They played their best basketball of the season to defeat Eastern Washington 76-55 in the first round, then dominated Montana State 84-67 to earn a berth in the championship game.
In the first half, the Lady Bengals dominated in the rebounding column and ran out to a 35-28 halftime lead. Montana then relied on its strength - three-point shooting - to fight its way back into the game early in the second half; the Lady Griz tied the game at 44-44 on back-to-back three-pointers by Cheryl Keller and Brooklynn Lorenzen. Down the stretch, the Lady Bengals relied on rebounding, a smothering zone defense and a few clutch three-pointers to pull away and capture their first opportunity to represent the Big Sky in the NCAA Tournament.
"We knew we could win the championship," said Lady Griz senior Lauren Cooper, who hit five of Montana's 11 three-pointers in the championship game, setting a single-game record for the conference. "We played well, but we just didn't get it done," she said. "You have to give Idaho State credit." Much credit also goes to Cooper, who will graduate as the third-leading scorer in Lady Griz history and is the only player in conference history to hit more than 200 three-pointers in her career.
According to Holst, those were the sorts of games that Montana won last year. Near the end of this season, the Grizzlies learned how to pull out close games, winning consecutive contests over Sacramento State, 67-66, Montana State, 84-82 in overtime, and Weber State, 66-63. After that stretch, Montana lost three straight games before ending the season with an 84-67 victory over Sacramento State.
"We just ran out of games," said Holst. "We played our best ball in February, and it would have been fun to see this team continue to play and improve."
The Grizzlies will lose senior Jared Buckmaster, the team leader in three-pointers. Buckmaster, along with juniors Dan Trammel and Travis Greenwalt, were this year's leading scorers. The Montana men should be fun to watch next season, with Trammel and Greenwalt likely to lead the Grizzlies back to a winning record.
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