HAVRE, Mont. – It took two overtimes and too many clutch shots to count, but when the dust settled after 50 minutes of play the Lewis-Clark State College women’s basketball team was the victor. The Warriors defeated Montana State University-Northern in thrilling fashion by a final score of 78-76.
Neither team was willing to throw in the towel and before the game was over it seemed like any shot taken within the final 20 seconds of a period was destined to go in.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever been prouder of a team,” said LCSC head coach Brian Orr, who is in his 12th season at the helm. “And it wouldn’t have made any difference whether we had ended up winning or not.”
Playing in front of a capacity crowd of nearly 2,000 vocal Skylight fans, the Warriors had to overcome a 12-point deficit during the first half, a late deficit in the first overtime, and then find the energy to outpace Northern in double overtime.
“It’s one of the toughest environments in the league, especially when it’s a packed house,” Orr said about playing in Havre. “Obviously, we got off to a slow start, but I was so proud of how we hung in there and fought. It was a great game to watch, with a wild finish.”
Despite the tenacity his team showed in the final minutes of the game and in overtime, Orr said the most vital part of his team’s comeback was carried out in the first half.
“The fact that we cut the lead down at the end of the first half is really what allowed us to get back in the game… I was worried about our youth showing up in the second half, but every possession they fought and fought. We grew up tonight.”
Not only did the Warrior players grow up, but anyone who watched the nail-biter had to add a couple gray hairs as well.
LCSC senior Annie Kane set the pattern for last-second heroics when she hit a two-pointer just before the halftime buzzer to cut Northern’s lead to 31-28. Her shot was just a small sample of what was to come.
The final minute of regulation featured four lead changes. With 36 seconds left, Tanis Fuller hit a jump hook to give the Warriors a 57-56 lead, but Northern quickly answered with a layup by Laci Keller. Then with eight seconds left, Kane kicked the ball out to Loree Hill near the Warrior bench and she swooshed a 3-pointer to put LCSC on top 60-58, it was her only field goal of the game.
MSU-Northern’s Jordan Bruursema answered with a layup on a backdoor pass with just seconds remaining, and so the game continued.
The Warriors led 66-64 in the first overtime until Nikki Tresch, with 45 seconds on the clock, used a screen to get wide open and hit a 3-pointer to put Northern up 67-66. After a couple of possessions and an LCSC timeout, the Warriors brought the ball up the court, but had trouble finding an opening. The ball finally landed in the hands of Kelli Rice, who, from about five feet behind the 3-point line, hoisted a shot that hit nothing but net and put the Warriors on top 69-67 with 18 seconds remaining.
Northern again answered with a shot on the inside as Keller hit a two in the final seconds.
In the second overtime, Ornela Bacchini put the Warriors on her back and in position to win. The junior hit multiple shots in the paint, and with one more shot off the glass she handed LCSC a 77-75 lead with about a minute to go.
The only shots to go in after this point were two free throw attempts, one for each team, and the Warriors walked away victorious.
“Ornela was unbelievable tonight. Just unstoppable. And Loree’s shot was big, Kelli’s shot was big, Annie had another stellar performance… I was just so proud of everybody.”
Bacchini, a 6-foot-2 post from Buenos Aires, Argentina, finished with a career-high 28 points on 11-of-14 shooting from the floor and 6-of-6 shooting at the foul line. Kane added 21 points and made 7-of-8 free throws, Fuller had 14 points and nine rebounds, and Hill had a career-high 10 rebounds.
MSU-Northern was led by Tresch who had 20 points on 4-of-6 shooting from the outside, and Keller who had a double-double of 16 points and 13 rebounds.
LCSC held a slim lead in shooting (43 percent to 40 percent), rebounds (40-36), and enjoyed a 36-12 advantage in points in the paint. Northern hit 10-of-24 shots from the outside to outdo LCSC’s 3-of-9 effort.
The last time the Warriors played in a double-overtime games was on Jan. 28, 1994 when they defeated Seattle University in Seattle 97-93.
The Warriors suddenly seem to be finding their stride as they’ve won two straight, both on the road, and three of their last four. With a 3-4 mark in the Frontier Conference (6-15 overall) they’ve moved up to the middle of the league standings. Northern is now 3-4 and 11-8.
“We’re back in the conference fight,” said Orr. “We’ve had some adversity this year without question, but this team has never given up.”
The Warriors will be back at home for two conference games next week. They’ll face Carroll College on Thursday, and then on Saturday they’ll play a team that just doesn’t seem to go away—MSU-Northern.