By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
The Montana State University-Northern basketball teams have never been so happy to see Havre. The Skylights and Lights both suffered losses to Carroll College on Saturday night in Helena, to make them 0-2 in their first conference road trip of the season.
The Skylights could have very easily been 1-1 or even 2-0 on the weekend. For the second straight game, the outcome came down to the Skylights' final possession. Unfortunately, that final possession wasn't successful in a 78-77 loss.
Northern cut the lead to 78-77 with just over two minutes left to play on a 10-0 run highlighted by 3-pointers from Jenna Heggem, Camille Gardner and Jessi Reome.
Over the next two minutes, the teams couldn't toss it in the ocean, let alone the basket. It wasn't for lack of opportunities, as missed free throws, missed layups and turnovers plagued both teams.
Northern did have the final attempt. After rebounding an Emili Woody missed 3-point attempt, the Skylights ran the clock down before calling a timeout with eight seconds remaining.
"We felt like we could get to the basket," said Skylights head coach Mike Erickson. "We wanted to get some penetration toward the basket and get somebody to the middle for either a short shot or maybe draw a foul."
The Skylights got that as Jaci Heny drove the lane and attempted to float a shot over Carroll's Laci High while drawing a possible foul. High avoided most of the contact and swatted the shot away, preserving the win.
"We didn't exactly execute the last play like we wanted, but we still got a decent look," Erickson said. "Really, we should've never been in that position. We had plenty of opportunities to win the game down the stretch. In a one-point loss, you can go back to find a dozen plays that would've made a difference."
The loss was disappointing, considering the Skylights' valiant comeback. Still, Erickson was happy to be in a position to win the game against a very good Carroll squad playing in its home gym.
"It's something we've been doing the last four games," Erickson said of the comeback. "These girls just never give up. They keep fighting and playing the whole 40 minutes because they know they are never out of it."
Besides the comeback, Erickson was also pleased with the resurgence of his post game. Senior Megan Valgardson had one of her best games of late, scoring a team-high 20 points, including a perfect 6-6 from the free-throw line.
"Megan really had a good night," Erickson said. "We've really missed that production from her in recent weeks. She really stepped out and dominated. Her numbers could've been even better but she got in some foul trouble that limited her minutes."
Heny and Gardner had 10 points each for the Skylights, while Michele VanDyke and Jessi Reome added eight. VanDyke was also solid defensively, holding Woody to just 14 points on 3-9 shooting.
"Michele had another great game," Erickson said. "She did a good job defending Woody and got some big baskets. She played a really complete game.
"I thought Jena Heggem really had a big night for us," he added. "She came in and hit a big 3-pointer and played some solid minutes."
Besides Woody's 14 points, Carroll got 16 points from Andrea Hall, 13 from former HHS standout Jolene Fuzesy, 11 from Carly Syverson and 10 from Laci High in the win.
"They have so many weapons that you can't have any breakdowns defensively," Erickson said. "A couple times we had some lapses and Fuzesy and High hit some huge 3-pointers."
Despite the loss, Erickson believes his team took a step forward.
"We realized that we are capable of playing with any team in this league," he said. "We're already looking forward to playing Carroll again."
In the men's game, the outcome didn't come down to a final shot, but with the way the Carroll men were shooting, they would have made it.
The Saints shot a ridiculous 61 percent from the field and an even more ludicrous 65 percent from 3-point range in a 98-73 win over the Lights.
"If they play like that every night, forget about it," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "Carroll just shot the lights out, and it wasn't just one or two guys, it was all of them."
It really was pick your poison for the Lights. If they tried to stop the outside shot, forwards Andy Brown and Jeff Hays scored inside. If they helped inside, Dallas Leslie, Hays and Sinan Guler buried threes.
Northern led early in the game and trailed 45-35 at halftime, but the Saints simply pulled away in the second half behind Hays, Brown and Leslie.
Hays scored a game-high 21 points, including four 3-pointers, while Brown was a perfect 8-8 from the field and 4-4 from the free-throw line en route to 20 points and seven rebounds. Leslie put the game out of reach with his 3-point shooting. He came off the bench to score 19 points, highlighted by five 3-pointers.
"It's not like we weren't defending them," Huse said. "Leslie and Hays both hit a couple of threes with guys right in their face."
Besides being tough offensively, Carroll was also stingy defensively, holding Northern to 73 points and leading scorer Marcus Wilson to just 10.
"They were very physical on defense and I don't think Marcus expected them to be that physical," Huse said. "We really didn't play that bad offensively, but when Carroll is playing at such a high level, you almost have to be near perfect and we weren't."
Northern was led by Jordan Matthews' 14 points. Cory Brothers came off the bench to score 10 points, while Reid Stovall and Cody Gillespie added nine each.
It was definitely a learning experience for a Lights' team that has just three players with any Frontier Conference experience.
"We do have a lot of players on the floor that are still pretty green when it comes to this type of basketball," Huse said. "The biggest thing is that our players have to get used to that physical-type of play at both ends of the floor."
After defeating NCAA Division I Idaho State earlier this season, Carroll seems to be as advertised.
"I can't help but think that Carroll is as good as there is in the conference," Huse said. "We have to grow from this. We know it won't be any easier as the season continues."
Northern will return home for a pair of Frontier Conference games against Westminster College and Lewis-Clark State this weekend.
CARROLL COLLEGE 78, MSU-NORTHERN 77
MSU-NORTHERN (2-2, 16-6)
Jessi Reome 3-10 1-1 8, Camille Gardner 4-8 0-0 10, Jaci Heny 3-6 4-5 10, Michele VanDyke 4-8 0-1 8, Megan Valgardson 7-10 6-6 20, Heather Riener 1-1 1-1 3, Kristie Pullin 1-4 2-5 4, DeLayne Johnston 2-4 1-3 5, Jena Heggem 3-3 0-1 7, Ashley Trulock 1-1 0-2 2. Totals: 29-55 15-25 77.
CARROLL COLLEGE (3-1, 16-5)
Laci High 3-7 1-2 10, Emili Woody 3-9 6-8 14, Carly Syverson 4-14 1-1 11, Rachel Bromily 2-4 0-1 4, Andrea Hall 6-13 2-2 16, Catie Priddy 1-2 0-0 2, Jolene Fuzesy 4-6 2-2 13, Katie Rodgers 1-2 0-0 2, Sophi Forney 1-2 4-8 6. Totals: 25-59 16-24 78.
Three-point field goals: MSU-N 4-13 (Gardner 2-5, Reome 1-6, Heggem 1-1), CC 12-24 (Fuzesy 3-4, High 3-5, Woody 2-3, Hall 2-5, Syverson 2-7). Rebounds: MSU-N 31 (Heny 7, Johnston 6), CC 36 (Woody 10, Syverson 6, Forney 6). Assists: MSU-N 18 (Gardner 6), CC 17 (Syverson 9). Turnovers: MSU-N 23, CC 24. Team fouls: MSU-N 17, CC 26.
CARROLL COLLEGE 98, MSU-NORTHERN 73
MSU-NORTHERN (1-3, 10-8)
Reid Stovall 4-7 1-2 9; Marcus Wilson 5-7 0-0 10; Jordan Matthews 3-4 14; Landen Grant 1-3 0-0 2; Leo Bullchild 0-2 0-0 0; Rodrick Carter 3-3 0-0 7; Cory Brothers 4-8 1-1 10; Antonio Jordan 0-1 0-0 0; Cody Gillespie 3-4 2-2 9; Ed Lowe 1-2 0-0 3; Tim Hutchins 1-3 2-2 5; Dan Brigham 1-1 0-0 2; Pathe Yatera 1-2 0-0 2. Totals 29-55 9-11 73.
CARROLL (2-2, 14-5)
Kurt Paulson 3-7 4-4 12; Jeff Hays 8-11 1-1 21; Sinan Guler 3-9 0-0 8; Andy Brown 8-8 4-4 20; Ross Gustafson 0-0 2-2 2; Travis Williams 2-3 6-7 10; Gage Brumwell 1-2 0-0 2; Derek Johnson 0-3 4-4 4; Dallas Leslie 7-9 0-0 19. Totals 32-52 21-22 98.
Three-point shots - MSU-N 6 (Matthews, Carter, Brothers, Gillespie, Lowe, Hutchins). CC 13 (Paulson 2, Hays 4, Guler 2, Leslie 5). Rebounds: MSU-N 20 (Wilson 5). CC 28 (Guler 7, Brown 7). Total fouls - MSU-N 19. CC 19.