By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team has played in its fair share of close games this season. On six occasions, the Lights have had games come down to the final shot to decide their outcome.
Thursday afternoon was no different. Unfortunately, the Lights never even got to take that shot.
With Northern trailing by two with time running out, senior forward Charlie Ereaux lost the ball out of bounds with half a second remaining as he was preparing to take the final shot, allowing Rocky Mountain College to hang for a 76-74 win in Frontier Conference tournament action at the Butte Civic Center.
"What a tough game to lose," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "It was tough way to end the season, not even getting a shot off, but our guys went out with a bang and left it all on the floor."
Indeed, the game featured over a dozen lead changes and neither led by more than seven points.
Rocky took its last lead of the game on a Greg Wood drive to the basket and a Marshaun Jourdan score inside to take a 75-72 lead with :58 seconds remaining.
Northern answered immediately as Lamar Morinia scored on a drive to the basket and drew a foul. However, Morinia missed the free throw leaving the Lights trailing by one at 75-74 with :50 seconds left.
With a 10 second differential between the game clock and the shot clock, Northern tried to get a stop defensively rather than fouling. However, Jourdan was fouled on a drive to the basket giving him a pair of free-throw attempts. He sank one of two to give Rocky a 76-74 lead with :21 seconds remaining.
Northern immediately called timeout and set up a play to take one last shot to either tie or win the game.
"Our first option was get it to Charlie (Ereaux) in the post," Huse said. "He got position but apparently we didn't have the angle to make the pass. Our second option was to kick it to Larry (Morinia) for a three-pointer, which we did but he hesitated just enough to draw the defense.
"We had to scramble after that to get a shot which I thought we did a pretty good job finding Charlie. He just tried to clear the ball out from the defender and swung it right out of bounds."
It was an unfitting way to end for Ereaux, who was simply dominant on the night - scoring a game-high 29 points and grabbing a game-high 11 rebounds.
Still, Huse wasn't about to let the blame fall directly on his senior's shoulders.
"The game wasn't lost on one play," Huse said. "No game is. We missed a lot of layups, and we weren't missing contested layups, we were missing wide open layups."
After having two sub-par games against Northern this season, Jourdan exploded for 23 points. His performance offset a tough game for former KG star Jake Stuart, who finished with just seven points on 3-12 shooting and was continually hounded by Northern defenders.
Spencer Allred added 17 points and Beau McFadyean chipped in with 12 for Rocky.
Besides Ereaux, Northern got 13 points apiece from Larry and Lamar Morinia while Reid Stovall had a nice game off-the-bench with 11 points.
"We had six games go down to the wire and we won two of them," Huse said. "That's not a great ratio, but I think that ration will get better with experience."
Rocky advances to tonight's semifinal game against Westminster College while Northern's seasons ends with a 19-14 record overall and a 6-9 record in the Frontier Conference.
"I'm very proud of our guys," Huse said. "They played with so much heart, sometimes we need to play with our heads a little more. They need to keep their heads up and be proud. We exceeded a lot of expectations and they laid a good foundation for what we are trying to build here."