By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
Lamar Morinia couldn't believe his desperation three-point shot at the end of the first overtime didn't go in, saying it "felt so good."
Morinia's three-point attempt at the end of the second overtime felt even better.
With the scored tied at 95 and 5.4 seconds remaining, the senior point guard drove the length the floor and sank a fadeaway three-pointer at the buzzer to lift the Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team to a dramatic 98-95 win over Carroll College Saturday night in a packed and raucous MSU-Northern gymnasium.
"The shot at the end of the first overtime felt so good," Morinia said. "I couldn't believe it didn't go in. On the second one, coach just wanted me to get to the basket. I guess I didn't listen too well, but I knew it was in when it left my hand."
Said head coach Shawn Huse: "We just wanted to get the ball inbounded cleanly first. We tried to put guys in certain positions and have a few options for Lamar when he penetrated. We didn't have a lot of time to get real fancy.
"(Greg) Johnson did a good job of slowing Lamar down and forced him to pull up and shoot it. Lamar hit a very tough shot. There was no special coaching; it was just a good player making a great play."
Morinia's three-pointer culminated with a wild celebration in which he dove into the Northern student section, the "Armory Animals," and was subsequently dog-piled by his teammates. Yet, the frenzied celebration paled in comparison to the action on the floor throughout the game.
Carroll's Jeff Hays tied the game at 95 with a free throw with 2:37 remaining in the second overtime. Over the next two minutes, both teams tried desperately to take the lead, but missed shots and stingy defense held both teams scoreless.
Northern almost didn't need the extra overtime. The Lights grabbed an 89-86 lead with 37 seconds remaining in the game on a pair of Dustin Sawejka free throws. However, Carroll answered as Chris Beery hit an off-balance three-pointer with 21 seconds remaining. Northern set up for one final shot, but Carroll blew up the set play and Morinia took an off-balance three-pointer that was just a little long.
"We were right there defensively," Huse said. "Beery made a very tough shot. We set up a play for our last shot, but Carroll did a good job of taking away the main pass for the play. After that, we were forced to scramble to get a shot. We were kind of upset because we want to get to the basket in that situation to get a shot. Obviously, we wanted to get a better shot, but it didn't happen."
The shot was much better than Northern's attempts at the end of regulation. Down 79-77 with under a minute, Morinia picked Johnson's pocket and converted a tough layup to tie the game. Carroll's attempt at a game-winning shot never happened as Andy Brown bobbled a Hays pass and tossed it off the bottom of the backboard. Northern didn't get a final shot either as Zach McLean was whistled for traveling with 3.1 seconds left in regulation.
Carroll set up for a final shot, but Sawejka intercepted the pass and heaved up a half-court shot that came up short.
The fact that the Saints even forced overtime was a bit of a surprise. The Lights showed no ill effects from a loss the night before as they rolled to a 46-31 halftime lead. Northern scored at will on Carroll, while bottling up the Saints' outside shooters.
"That was as good a half of basketball as we've played," Huse said. "Defensively, we were very active and forced their shooters to take some off-balance shots. We were also getting rebounds and executing on offense."
Although the Saints were missing starting forward Chris Bond, Northern expected them to make a run in the second half.
"We said it at halftime that they were going to make a run," Morinia said.
Said Huse: "Carroll has been to the national tournament the last three years and has a lot of tradition. They deserve a lot of credit. Their kids fought hard to get back into the game."
Hays and Brown, along with Randy Ranalli, keyed the run. Hays and Brown dominated inside, fouling out two Northern frontcourt players while doing damage inside and at the free-throw line. Ranalli sank three three-pointers in the second half to open things up for the Saints' inside play.
Hays finished with a game-high 31 points and nine rebounds, while Brown added 23 points and 10 rebounds.
"Jeff Hays is a great player," Morinia said. "He was tough to defend, but we came up with three big stops when we needed them at the end."
Larry Morinia scored 31 points for Northern, while Sawejka finished with 20 points. Lamar Morinia finished with 17 points, and Berhane Williams had a solid game off the bench with 14 points.
After losing a game from the free-throw line the night before, Northern finished a solid 26-30 from the charity stripe, including 12-of-13 shooting in the overtime period.
"I think mentally this was a big win for us," Huse said. "To get over that hump is big. We felt like we could beat them all along, but to actually go out and do it helps us believe that we are a team that can compete in this league. We made a statement to ourselves and to our league that we are going to compete every night."
It wasn't that Northern didn't compete in Friday night's 84-80 loss to Rocky Mountain. It was just that the Battlin' Bears were just a little better.
Forward Luke Kunkel scored 29 points on 12-of-16 shooting while pulling down eight rebounds to lead Rocky to the win. Greg Wood scored 16 points, Ken Waldo added 14 and former KG star Jake Stuart added 11 in the win. "Rocky played really well and shot the ball extremely well in the second half," Huse said. "Not to take anything away from them, but if we get a few more shots to fall and we make our free throws, we have a very good chance to win the game."
Northern was its own worst enemy as it shot 11-24 from the free-throw line, turned the ball over 19 times and couldn't find an answer for Rocky's torrid shooting. The Bears shot 70 percent from the field in the second half and hit every big shot when they needed to.
"We're a team that has to play with a small margin for error if we're going to have any success," Huse said. "Some teams can get away with mistakes, but we can't, especially things like missing free throws."
A putback and turnaround move inside by Kunkel gave Rocky a 74-71 lead it would never relinquish. Northern tried to get back into the game, but Wood, Bobby Coleman, Stuart and Eddie Stack made all of their free throws down the stretch to ice the game.
"It's a big win for us," Stuart said after his final college game on the Hi-Line. "We're starting to come together. We played a really tough nonconference schedule, tougher than a lot of schools in the conference. It is going to make us better."
Larry Morinia led Northern with 18 points while Lamar Morinia added 17. Trenton Harbaugh finished with 15 points and seven rebounds, and Sawejka came off the bench to score 13 points.
While Friday night's loss was disheartening, Saturday night's win did plenty to help ease the pain of the loss.
"After the game, we went into the locker room and said that if anyone on the team is going to come out with their heads down against Carroll, to not dress out," Lamar Morinia said. "We know we can win in this league and we want to prove it to everyone else."
Northern will be on the road this weekend as it makes the tough road trip south to Lewis-Clark State and Westminster College.
Rocky Mountain 84, MSU-Northern 80
Rocky Mountain College (12-8, 3-1)
Ken Waldo 7-7 0-1 14; Luke Kunkel 12-16 5-6 29; Eddie Stack 1-3 2-5 4; Greg Wood 5-9 5-6 16; Jake Stuart 3-8 2-3 11; Marcel Miller 1-1 0-0 2; Brett Wilson 1-3 0-0 2; Bobby Coleman 2-7 2-2 6. Totals: 32-54 16-23 84.
MSU-Northern (14-8, 2-2)
Larry Morinia 7-14 2-6 18; Reid Stovall 1-1 0-0 2; Lamar Morinia 6-10 3-4 17; Landen Grant 1-2 0-0 3; Trenton Harbaugh 7-8 1-7 15; Zach McLean 0-1 0-0 0; Leo Bullchild 1-1 0-0 2; Berhane Williams 2-11 3-4 7; Travis Moran 1-2 0-0 2; Steve Ahrens 0-0 1-2 1; Dustin Sawejka 6-13 1-1 13. Totals: 32-63 11-24 80.
Halftime: RMC 37, 36. Three-point goals: RMC 4-7 (Wood 1-2, Stuart 3-4, Coleman 0-1), MSUN 5-11 (Larry Morinia 2-4, Lamar Morinia 2-5, Landen Grant 1-1, McLean 0-1). Rebounds: RMC 29 (Kunkel 8, Stuart 7); MSUN 28 (Harbaugh 7, Williams 7) Assists: RMC 18 (Miller 4); MSUN 19 (four with 3). Total fouls: RMC 20, MSUN 19. Fouled out - Williams; Technicals - none.
MSU-Northern 98, Carroll 95
Carroll College (15-5, 2-3)
Greg Johnson 2-7 0-0 6; Jeff Graham 1-5 0-1 2; Jeff Hays 11-22 6-10 31; Chris Berry 4-5 0-2 9; Andy Brown 4-9 15-19 23; Newell Roche 1-3 0-0 3; Kurt Paulson 2-2 1-3 5; Randy Ranalli 4-4 1-2 12; Ross Gustafson 2-2 0-0 2. Totals: 31-59 23-36 95.
MSU-Northern (15-8, 3-2)
Larry Morinia 8-15 13-15 31; Reid Stovall 2-5 0-0 4; Lamar Morinia 6-16 3-6 17; Landen Grant 2-5 0-0 6; Trenton Harbaugh 1-3 0-0 2; Walter Runsabove 0-2 0-0 0; Berhane Williams 6-10 0-0 14; Travis Moran 1-4 2-2 4; Dustin Sawejka 7-14 6-7 20.Totals: 33-74 24-30 98.
Halftime score: MSUN 46, CC 31. Three-point goals: CC 10-16 (Johnson 2-4, Hays 3-3, Beery 1-1, Roche 1-1, Ranalli 3-3); MSUN 8-18 (Larry Morinia 2-4, Lamar Morinia 2-7, Grant 2-3, Williams 2-2). Rebounds: CC 34 (Brown 10, Hays 9) MSUN 35 (Stovall 7, Lamar Morinia 6). Assists: CC 16 (Johnson 4, Brown 4); MSUN 15 (Moran 5). Total fouls: CC 24, MSUN 29. Fouled out - Harbaugh, Williams.