Lady Griz Survive, Move on to Firday’s Semifinals


For the first 12 minutes of Wednesday’s quarterfinal against Idaho State, the Montana Lady Griz looked like world beaters while racing out to a 26-5 lead. From there it was all about surviving and advancing. And just barely.

Top-seeded Montana (22-8) held on for a 69-67 victory over the gritty No. 8 Bengals (13-17) at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula on the opening day of the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball tournament and will face No. 4 Eastern Washington (20-10) Friday at 1:30 p.m. in the tournament’s second semifinal.

The Eagles advanced with an easy 73-57 victory over No. 5 Northern Arizona (13-17) Wednesday.

In the day’s opening quarterfinal games, No. 2 Sacramento State (16-14) pulled away in the second half for a 78-62 victory over No. 7 Montana State (15-15), and No. 3 Northern Colorado (19-11) defeated No. 6 North Dakota (17-14) 72-64.

The Hornets and Bears will meet at 11 a.m. on Friday in the first semifinal. The semifinal winners will play at 2 p.m. in Saturday’s championship game.

Though Montana jumped out to a 21-point first-half lead, it wasn’t the knockout blow most of the 2,914 in attendance thought it might be.

Idaho State pulled to within 39-26 at the half and hung around as Montana missed its first 13 shots to open the second half. But it took a bizarre end-game sequence for the game to get uncomfortably close.

Montana led by 10 with three minutes to go and by nine as the game entered its final minute.

Apiphany Woods, who finished with 32 points, drove for a layup and connected on a 3-pointer six seconds later to make it 65-60 with 33 seconds left.

After Kellie Rubel upped the lead to 67-60 with a pair of free throws with 28 seconds remaining, Idaho State got the ball to Woods, and she drew a foul on Kayleigh Valley on a 3-point attempt. Her three free throws with 16 seconds left made it 67-63.

The foul was Valley’s fifth. Her replacement, Hannah Doran, was fouled on the inbounds pass, and she calmly connected on two free throws with 12 seconds left to make it 69-63.

Insurmountable in women’s basketball, unless there is a crazy turn of events, like two baskets and four points in the blink of an eye.

Katrina Bacovcin drove for a layup with five seconds left, which Montana was happy to concede, since it only cut the deficit to four, 69-65.

But Carly Selvig, slipped as she was setting herself to make the inbounds pass, and she flipped the ball to a surprised Bacovcin, who turned and laid it in to make it 69-67 with four seconds left.

After video review, it was determined the clock hadn’t run correctly and was reset to less than two seconds. And even then the game was far from over. At least in real-world time.

Montana inbounded the ball with 1.3 seconds left, and Idaho State immediately forced a tie-up. The Lady Griz had the possession arrow in their favor, but another lengthy video review ensued to reset the clock.

With 0.3 seconds showing, Montana threw a long inbounds pass, and McCalle Feller dribbled to victory. And everyone finally exhaled.

“The finish was bizarre. There had to be a lot of weird things happen for it to get that close,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “We basically had it won, and Carly slips and falls down and throws it to them under the basket to give them two points.

“That’s why you don’t relax. Anything can happen, and Idaho State did a good job of hanging in. I’m glad we won it. We’re one step closer to where we want to be.”

Rubel finished with 16 points, a career-high 12 rebounds, four assists and four steals, and she sparked Montana’s first-half effort that went a long way toward erasing the memory of Saturday’s 65-57 loss at Montana State.

The Lady Griz, who scored the game’s first 16 points, connected from 3-point range, scored in transition and shot 54.8 percent in the first half while on their way to a supposed blowout.

“That was a lot of fun. We got a lot of transitions, we passed it well and just had a great start,” said Selvig. “Then we started the second half and did just the opposite.”

Montana went 0 for 13 the first 10 minutes of the second half but scored nine points from the line and continued to hold down Idaho State offensively. Twenty-six minutes into the game the Bengals had 26 points.

Maggie Rickman scored inside at the 9:22 mark to give Montana its first basket of the second half and make it 50-36. The lead that had been 13 at the half never dipped below 12 during that time despite UM’s field-goal drought.

Montana went just 4 for 22 (.182) in the second half after going 17 for 31 in the first half, but the Lady Griz also scored 22 points from the line in the second frame.

“We didn’t make any baskets in the second half. They were beating us up pretty good, so we were at the free throw line the whole time,” said Selvig. “There wasn’t much flow to the game in the second half.”

The lead remained 10 or more until Woods hit a 3-pointer with 2:30 left to make it 61-53. Montana aided Idaho State’s late comeback by missing five free throws in the final three minutes.

“Threes really kept them alive when they needed them. We didn’t shoot very well from the free throw line, and that helped them get close too,” said Selvig. “It ended up being a battle. It was a great win.”

Rickman matched Rubel with 16 points, and Valley finished with 12. Alycia Sims came off the bench to hit 4 of 5 shots and add eight points.

Montana and Eastern Washington, Friday’s semifinal opponent, split their games during the regular season. The Eagles won 65-64 at Cheney, the Lady Griz won 69-59 at Missoula on Feb. 28.


Montana Sports Information