Montana Advances to Championship Game of Lady Griz Classic

By JOEL CARLSON

Montana and Austin Peay will meet in the championship game Saturday of the 34th Lady Griz Classic presented by Holiday Inn Missoula Downtown after both teams posted victories Friday night at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

The Lady Govs (3-8) got 20 points on 9-of-13 shooting from center Tearra Banks and a 12-point, 12-assist, 10 rebound triple-double from point guard Tiasha Gray to get past Saint Louis (4-6) 86-81 in the opening game.

In the late game, Carly Selvig matched a Montana record with 10 blocks and the Grizzlies (6-4) blocked a program-record 16 while limiting Utah Valley (5-7) to 23.1 percent shooting to win their fourth straight game, 68-44.

Montana, now 64-3 at its home tournament, will be looking to win its 27th straight Lady Griz Classic title Saturday night, and the matchup with Austin Peay sets up a delightful Xs and Os scenario.

Banks, who looks like she could snap most post defenders in half, which belies her soft touch around the basket, will be matched up against Selvig, whom Utah Valley continued to challenge Friday night despite the blocks adding up at record pace.

Help on Banks, and the Lady Gov shooters might do what they did to Saint Louis and go 9 for 16 from 3-point range.

“I was impressed with (Banks). She has great touch and uses the glass really well. When she gets it, she knows what she’s going to do with it,” said UM coach Robin Selvig.

“We hope Carly can change some shots and take some things away. If that doesn’t work, you’ve got to get some help for her. But if you give too much help, they’ll find open people. Those are the games within the game.”

There was little of that intrigue in Montana’s lopsided win over Utah Valley Friday night. The Lady Griz got a career-high 17 points from McCalle Feller and 17 more from Kayleigh Valley, who matched her career high despite playing just 18 minutes because of foul trouble.

Shanae Gilham was feeling it as well and finished with a career-high 14 points on 4-of-7 shooting from 3-point range. The trio shot 18 for 30 overall, 9 for 17 from 3-point range.

Montana, which entered the game shooting 25.6 percent from 3-point range, went 7 for 12 from the arc in the first half and shot 38.8 percent from the field for the game. At the other end the Lady Griz were holding the Wolverines to sub-25-percent shooting for both halves.

“It’s kind of sad when we’re fired up after shooting 39 percent,” said Selvig, partly joking, partly not. “It actually felt like we shot much better than that. We shot really well from three early in the game, and that makes a big difference.

“Nine for 25 (from 3-point range) isn’t lighting it, but the girls are too good of shooters to be throwing up the three numbers we’ve had.”

Montana, with two triples from Valley, scored 12 of its first 16 points from 3-point range, and that gave the Lady Griz an early 10-point cushion that would grow to 24, 34-10, after a six-minute scoreless drought for Utah Valley.

The Wolverines outscored the Lady Griz 11-0 over the final 2:15 of the half to make it 34-21 at the break. The last three points came on Mariah Seals’ running 3-pointer at the buzzer from 35 feet out.

BBQ“We were up big in the first half before we kind of petered the lead away. I wasn’t too happy with that,” said Selvig. “That kind of made the start of the second halfimportant.”

No problem. After Rhaiah Spooner-Knight scored the opening basket of the second half to make it 34-23, Valley scored four points in an 8-0 run that put Montana back in control.

The only drama came as Selvig and the Lady Griz inched closer to the record book.

Selvig matched Tamara Guardipee’s single-game record of 10 blocks, set against Portland State in 2005-06, when she swatted Brooke Wheeler with 4:28 left. Montana broke the program record of 15, set against Montana-Western in 2011-12, when Mekayla Isaak got into the fun by rejecting Deijah Blanks with 1:32 remaining.

Selvig now has 30 blocks the last five games, which is more than a third of the teams in the Big Sky Conference have for the entire season.

“She’s just been a force, and those numbers don’t count all the shots she’s changing,” said Selvig, who has watched his niece rehab from an ACL tear suffered in March. She missed the season’s first two games and now looks to be near 100 percent.

“Obviously her knee is back. She has her lateral quickness, and we’re able to play her a few more minutes every time out.”

Montana scored 68 points despite Kellie Rubel being held to a season-low four on 1-of-7 shooting. But what she didn’t add in scoring she contributed in other areas. She dished out a season-high eight assists and matched a season high with eight rebounds. Then there were the four steals and two blocks.

“Kellie played great tonight. We didn’t get scoring out of her, but it’s a good sign that we got scoring from other places,” Selvig said. “We picked up the slack in a lot of places.”

Montana got outrebounded by one, the first time since the Wyoming game the Lady Griz have been outboarded, but they only committed 10 turnovers.

Seals led Utah Valley, which plays Saint Louis Saturday at 5:30 p.m. as the warmup to the Montana-Austin Peay game at 7:45, with 12 points.

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Montana Sports Information