By JOEL CARLSON
Delaney Hodgins rebounded her sister’s miss and scored with 0.9 seconds left to give Big Sky Conference leader Eastern Washington a 67-65 victory over Montana Saturday afternoon at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Hodgins’ basket completed the Eagles’ comeback from a 14-point, third-quarter deficit in a game the Lady Griz led for more than 32 minutes.
Montana (11-8, 4-4 BSC) was up 55-46 entering the final period but missed 13 of its final 17 shots to open the door for Eastern Washington (13-6, 7-0 BSC), which won its fourth straight game over the Lady Griz at Reese Court. Three of those four losses have come by a combined total of five points.
“I wouldn’t say we were ever in command of the game, but we were in the lead and in pretty good shape the whole time,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, whose team lost 61-59 to North Dakota last Saturday on a Mia Loyd basket at the buzzer.
“We stopped scoring, they caught up, and then it was one play here, one play there.”
After a rebound putback and free throw by Alycia Sims with 2:34 remaining gave Montana a 63-59 lead, the Hodgins sisters outscored the Lady Griz 8-2 over the final two-plus minutes to keep the Eagles unbeaten in league and atop the Big Sky standings.
Delaney, who finished with 19 points, scored inside, and Hayley, who scored a game-high 23, hit a jumper after a Montana turnover to tie it at 63 with just less than two minutes remaining.
Kayleigh Valley, who scored a team-high 19 points, converted in the paint with 1:31 left to give Montana its final lead of the game, 65-63, and what would be its final points.
Hayley Hodgins hit a jumper with 1:18 to go to even the score at 65, and the Lady Griz came up empty in the final minute, despite an offensive rebound by Sims creating shots for Montana’s two leading scorers.
The Eagles started their game-winning possession with 23 seconds left, and the ball was understandably put in the hands of Hayley Hodgins, who scored 34 points Thursday night in Eastern Washington’s win over Montana State.
Hodgins got off a clean look from 17 feet, but her shot was short. No matter. Her sister beat Montana to the ball and laid it back in before the final buzzer.
“We’ve got to get that ball, and we didn’t,” said Selvig. “We should have a block out and get the rebound.
“But I can’t complain. It’s disappointing to lose, but it was a great effort by us. We get thumped by 17 on Thursday, then come in and play the hottest team in the league, and have control. We just didn’t get it done.”
A video review put 0.9 seconds back on the clock, and Montana was able to inbound the ball from in front of its own bench following a timeout. A set play had Valley isolated under the basket with her defender, but Sims’ lob toward the basket hit the rim and bounced away.
The loss was the third straight for Montana and its fourth in five games. Two of the three losses have come on shots in the final second. Another was in overtime on the road at Sacramento State.
“We’ve had three games where we’ve lost at the buzzer basically, and that’s frustrating. The good thing is that no matter what our record is, the ladies should know we can beat anybody,” said Selvig, whose team gave up the postseason head-to-head tiebreaker to both Idaho and Eastern Washington this week.
“You can’t get these back, because we don’t play them at home, but I guess it doesn’t make all that much difference. Everybody is going to be at the tournament, and you want to be at your best then.”
The final result overshadowed what was a solid effort by Montana against a team that hasn’t lost since before Christmas.
The Lady Griz shot 47 percent in the first quarter to build a 19-13 lead and led 36-35 at the half.
Montana then held Eastern Washington without a field goal through the opening eight minutes of the third quarter and went up 51-37 on a pair of Valley free throws with 2:36 left.
A 3-pointer by Hayley Hodgins snapped the Eagles’ basket-less streak, and her jumper in the closing seconds brought EWU within nine at period’s end.
With Montana going without a basket the first seven minutes of the fourth quarter, Eastern Washington slowly fought its way back into the game, and Tisha Phillips put the Eagles up 57-56 with 4:51 to play, their first lead since midway through the second quarter.
The Lady Griz scored four straight points to regain the lead, and Sims made it 63-59 with her and-one with 2:34 to go, but from then on it was all Hodgins.
“They didn’t put together a real fast and furious run, they just kept chipping away,” said Selvig, whose team shot 3 for 15 in the fourth quarter and had five of its 11 turnovers. Eastern Washington was 10 for 14 in the fourth quarter. “The next thing you know, it’s tied up.”
And following Hodgins’ game-winner, it wasn’t.
Valley finished with 19 points while playing all 40 minutes. Sims had her second career double-double with 11 points and 13 rebounds, one off her career high.
Feller, who went 4 for 9 from 3-point range, had 16 points. Thirteen of those came in the first half. She was 1 for 9 in the second half. Haley Vining had 10 points, the second-highest scoring game of her career, and dished out six assists with no turnovers.
Eastern Washington shot 51.9 percent the first half, 50 percent the second, to finish at 50.9 for the game. It was the first time this season Montana has allowed a team to shoot 50 percent.
The loss drops Montana into a three-way tie for sixth place in the Big Sky Conference standings with Northern Colorado and North Dakota, one week before the midpoint of the league schedule.
First-place Eastern Washington remains just ahead of second-place Montana State, which won 62-59 at Idaho Saturday afternoon. The Bobcats were one of three teams to pick up road victories Saturday.
Sacramento State made 25 3-pointers on its way to a 126-78 win at Portland State, and Idaho State survived a Weber State miss at the buzzer to win 58-57 in Ogden.
North Dakota won its third straight game, defeating Southern Utah 68-56 in Grand Forks, and Northern Colorado won 79-55 at home over Northern Arizona.
Montana will play at Montana State (14-5, 7-1 BSC) next Saturday at 2 p.m.
Montana Sports Information