By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
One thing is for certain: The Montana State University-Northern men's basketball team can't complain that it hasn't played in any tight games this season.
For the fifth time this season and the second time in as many weeks, the Lights found themselves needing an extra period to decide the outcome of a game.
Unlike last week, when Northern defeated Carroll College in double overtime, this time the Lights came up short, falling 95-92 to 16th-ranked Lewis-Clark State on Saturday night in Lewiston, Idaho.
Northern's Lamar Morinia sank a three-pointer with eight seconds left to tie the game at 83. The Lights were able to stop LC's last-second shot attempt, sending the game into overtime.
In the overtime period, the teams traded baskets and leads throughout, with Lewis-Clark grabbing a 95-92 lead and the ball with 45 seconds remaining. Lights head coach Shawn Huse said his team kept from fouling and picked up a critical steal as the clock wound down. However, Larry Morinia's desperation three-point shot at the buzzer was off, giving the Warriors the win.
"We played a good basketball game," Huse said. "I can't say enough about the heart our kids showed by coming back in that game."
The Lights found themselves down by as many as 16 points in the first half but rallied to take the lead. With nine minutes left to go, Northern led by as much as 10, but LC is very tough on its home floor and tied the game up with five minutes left.
"After that, it was pretty much back and forth," Huse said. "I thought we had a lot of good chances of getting stops, but we got fouls called and they made their free throws."
Unfortunately, the Lights didn't make theirs. Northern made just 12 of 21 free throws in the game, a trend that is starting to concern Huse.
"We know we're better than that," Huse said. "It comes down to confidence."
The unfriendly confines of Warrior Gymnasium didn't help Northern's free-throw shooting and energized LC late in the game.
"Anybody who has been in that gym knows it's a nasty environment," Huse said. "There's 1,500 people crammed into a gym that probably holds about 800 people and they're on you every possession. LC is building a new gym for next season, I certainly won't miss their other one."
Despite the loss, Northern played much better than in Thursday's loss to Westminster, particularly on offense, shooting 47 percent from the field, including 50 percent from three-point range.
"We shot the ball much better," Huse said. "I think if we had shot this well against Westminster the game would have been very different."
Lamar Morinia led Northern with a season-high 30 points including, four-three pointers and four assists.
"Lamar played a terrific game," Huse said. "He felt like (Adam) Hiatt got the best of him the other night. He was definitely on a mission tonight."
Brother Larry Morinia scored 29 points, including an 8-8 performance from the free-throw line. Dustin Sawejka continued his strong play off the bench with 16 points and four rebounds.
Lewis-Clark got 30 points and 10 rebounds from Martin Brothers in the win. Joey Ray added 25 points including six three-pointers while Danny Allen added 14 points. Allen replaced starting point guard, Ricky Frazier, who was suspended before the game for disciplinary reasons.
"They just keep coming at you with size and athleticism off the bench," Huse said of LC. "It's my gut-feeling that if they have a good game, they beat a lot Division I teams. In fact, they had trouble scheduling D-I teams this season because of that."
With the win, LC improved to 5-2 in the conference and 21-4 overall. Northern fell to 3-4 in the conference and 15-10 overall, but Huse believes that there were many positives even in the loss.
"Our kids were so mentally tough, showing that they can come back in a hostile environment," Huse said. "If we can play with that mental toughness every game, we'll be just fine the rest of the season."
Northern begins the second half of the conference schedule on Saturday against the University of Great Falls.
Larry Morinia 9-19 8-8 29, Reid Stovall 4-7 0-0 9, Lamar Morinia 12-20 2-5 30, Landen Grant 0-0 0-0 0, Trenton Harbaugh 0-5 0-4 0, Zach McLean 1-2 0-0 2, Walter Runsabove 1-2 0-0 2, Travis Moran 1-2 2-3 4, Steve Ahrens 0-1 0-0 0, Dustin Sawejka 8-19 0-1 16. Totals: 36-77 12-21.
James Idoko 0 2-3 1-4 5, Dustin Endsley 3-6 2-2 8, Jared Tikker 1-2 0-0 2, Danny Allen 6-17 1-1 14, Joey Ray 9-15 1-1 25, Danny Ball 1-2 0-0 3, Martin Brothers 10-15 10-14 30, Chris Pitts 1-2 0-0 2, Adam Trombley 1-6 4-4 6. Totals: 34-69 18-26.
Halftime: MSUN 42, LC 40. Regulation: Tied 83-83. Three-pointers: MSUN 8-16 (Larry Morinia 3-7, Reid Stovall 1-1, Lamar Morinia 4-6, McLean 0-1, Sawejka 0-1), LC 9-20 (Endsley 0-2, Allen 2-6, Ray 6-11, Ball 1-1). Rebounds: MSUN 35 (Harbaugh 5), LC 44 (Brothers 10). Assists: MSUN 16 (Lamar Morinia 4, Stovall 4) Fouls: MSUN 25, LC 19. Fouled out: Allen, Harbaugh.