For the newcomers on the Lewis-Clark State women's basketball team, Saturday's draining comeback victory was probably no more or less satisfying than any other draining comeback victory.
The team's veterans knew better.
Montana-Western, L-C's chief tormentor in the Frontier Conference, buried 10 unexpected 3-pointers in the first half to take a 10-point halftime edge.
But the 21st-ranked Warriors responded with a snarling second-half performance, and busted their way to a 66-62 win. It was their 10th straight victory, moving them to 14-4 overall and 2-0 in the FC. It was also their farewell outing at Warrior Gym before a three-game conference road tour.
Plus, this victory must have zapped a demon or two. In the FC tournament championship game in both 2000 and '03, the Bulldogs beat LCSC with buzzer-beating 3-pointers. Three of the Warriors in uniform Saturday played in last year's game.
"I don't think the new girls really know the kind of battles we've had," L-C junior post Kendra West said. "But all of us (returners) had that in mind."
The Warriors fueled their rally with prickly man-to-man defense and the crafty scoring of Cami Kalbfleisch. Down 51-41 with 14 minutes remaining, L-C reeled off a 17-3 run.
With a long 3-pointer from the right corner, Kalbfleisch gave the Warriors a 56-54 lead with 6:16 remaining ... and they never trailed again.
But they also never shed the Bulldogs. UMW post Katherine Sunwall completed a three-point play with 1:36 left, trimming L-C's edge to 63-62.
After the teams traded possessions, the Warriors melted the clock down to 20 seconds. Kalbfleisch air-balled a difficult jumper, but freshman post Ashley Baker lunged after the ball and saved it while falling out of bounds. Her one-handed fling found West, who buried a 7-foot bucket as the shot clock expired.
"(Baker) made a great pass in, between two defenders," West said. "It was an amazing pass, especially diving out of bounds. ... I was just there; it was an easy shot to make."
With Jessica Foot hounding her, the Bulldogs' Megan Schmitz missed a leaning 3-point try. Foot then iced the victory with 1-for-2 free-throwing.
UMW entered this game shooting 28.5 percent from 3-point range. So the Warriors began with a trapping zone defense, which clogged the driving lanes and paint while allowing some open perimeter shots. "Frankly, we wanted them to take those shots," L-C coach Brian Orr said.
But in the first half, the Bulldogs canned 10 of 17 from behind the arc.
In the second half, however, the Warriors' man scheme shackled UMW shooters. They made just 1 of 11 3-point tries.
Kalbfleisch, a sophomore forward from Lewiston, pumped in 25 points while Baker recorded 19 points and 10 rebounds. West finished with nine points and 13 boards.
NOTES -- Foot, L-C's only active senior, tried just five shots and finished with five points. But Orr had high praise for her contribution: "We get in timeouts, and she's (saying), 'We can do this. We can do this.' She's just so positive. I think it gives our younger players that sense of security that, hey, we can do it. And we seem to be doing it on a regular basis."
MONTANA-WESTERN (8-12, 0-2)
Matter 2-9 2-2 7, Schmitz 4-11 0-0 12, Taylor 7-9 1-2 16, Buell 4-15 0-0 11, Sunwall 3-7 1-6 7, Scott 2-4 0-0 5, Suhr 1-4 0-0 3, Gradert 0-2 1-4 1. Totals 23-61 5-14 62.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (14-4, 2-0)
Kalbfleisch 9-17 3-4 25, Mulvey 3-10 0-0 6, Foot 1-5 3-4 5, Baker 7-16 5-8 19, West 4-8 1-1 9, Wittmer 0-0 0-0 0, de Groot 0-3 2-2 2. Totals 24-59 14-19 66.
Halftime score -- UMW 40, LCSC 30. Three-point goals --UMW 11-28 (Matter 1-2, Schmitz 4-8, Taylor 1-2, Buell 3-11, Scott 1-2, Suhr 1-3); LCSC 4-14 (Kalbfleisch 4-7, Mulvey 0-4, Foot 0-2, West 0-1). Rebounds -- UMW 42 (Sunwall 14); LCSC 38 (West 13). Assists -- UMW 15 (Schmitz, Buell 4); LCSC 10 (Foot 5). Total fouls -- UMW 17; LCSC 14. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.