Havre Daily News Sports Editor
Getting beat on a last-second heave can be a basketball team's worst nightmare. That's exactly what happened to the Montana State University-Northern Skylights on Friday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
The Skylights clawed their way back into their meeting with Albertson College and tied the game with a mere three seconds left in regulation when point guard Camille Gardner buried a 3-pointer to make the score 77-77.
The Yotes, however, executed a perfect full-court out-of-bounds play in which guard Whitney Clark, despite being well-defended, nailed a 40-foot shot at the buzzer to give Albertson an 80-77 nonconference victory.
“Getting beat on a last-second shot is always a tough pill to swallow,” MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. “We didn't defend the play exactly how we planned. But give all the credit to Albertson College. It was a great play and she made a great shot to beat us.”
The loss was devastating for the Skylights, mainly because they had fought through foul trouble and a short-handed bench and still managed to stay with the Yotes throughout the second half. By the time Gardner's three tied the game, the Skylights' Michele VanDyke and Jaci Heny had fouled out. The Skylights were also playing without reserve guard Ashlie Griffin, who was suffering from a reaggravated foot injury.
“I was very proud of the way our kids fought to the end of that game,” Mouat said. “We were playing short-handed against a very good, athletic team. So I was pleased that we were in a position to win the game at the end. It could have gone either way.”
The Skylights were paced by Heny's 21 points, as well as Gardner's 18. Gardner hit all four of Northern's 3-pointers. DeLayne Johnston added 16 points, and VanDyke chipped in with 13. The Yotes got 19 points from Kim Strunk and 18 points from Jori Grady in the win.
On Saturday, Northern turned its nightmare from the previous night into pure heaven as it routed Albertson, 72-55, in the rematch game. The Skylights turned up the defensive pressure on Albertson, holding the high-scoring Yotes to 55 points and 38 percent shooting from the field.
“When something like Friday night happens, it's always nice to see your team respond and bounce back like we did on Saturday,” Mouat said. “I thought we played really well on both ends of the floor.
“We cleaned things up on both sides of the ball, but especially defensively. We were very sharp on defense, and we really picked up the intensity on Saturday,” he added.
The Skylights had another balanced night scoring the ball. VanDyke, a Chester native, poured in a game-high 21 points and also grabbed nine rebounds. Heny added 20 points, including a 10-of-11 performance from the free-throw line.
“I was really pleased with our team's ability to bounce back,” Mouat said. “We seem to bounce back very well.
“But we don't want to have to keep doing that,” he added. “We need to go forward and get ourselves established the first time around so we don't have to need second chances. That is the way we are going to approach things from here on out.”
Friday night, four Yotes players scored in double figures. On Saturday, the Skylight defense shut the Yotes down, as only Strunk and Grady reached double digits in the scoring column. Strunk led the way with 16 points, while Grady chipped in with 12.
The weekend split with Albertson leaves Northern's record at 3-2 this season. The Skylights embark on a three-game road trip later this week.
“Things are getting better every game,” Mouat said. “I see a lot of potential in this team.
“These games against Albertson were very good for us,” he added. “We learned a lot more about ourselves, and we'll continue to improve from here.”
The Skylights will be back in action on Thursday when they travel to Portland, Ore., to face Cascade College. MSU-N will also play Warner Pacific College and Portland State University over the weekend.
Yotes 80, Skylights 77
Albertson College - Whitney Clark 2-3 0-0 6, Kim Strunk 6-11 4-6 19, Angie Gribble 1-6 2-3 5, Krystn Patterson 7-10 2-3 16, Desirae Smoot 4-14 6-7 14, Jori Grady 7-10 2-2 18, Whitney Martin 1-4 0-0 2. Totals: 28-59 16-21 80.
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 5-11 6-10 16, Michele VanDyke 4-4 5-6 13, Camille Gardner 6-12 2-2 18, Chelsie Searle 2-12 0-0 4, Jaci Heny 6-13 9-11 21, Jena Heggem 0-3 1-2 1, Ashley Trulock 2-8 0-0 4. Totals: 25-64 23-31 77.
3-point goals - Albertson 8-17 (Clark 2, Strunk 3, Gribble 1 Grady 2), MSU-N 4-17 (Gardner 4). Total fouls - Albertson 25, MSU-N 18. Rebounds - Albertson 38, MSU-N 43. Fouled out - Patterson, VanDyke, Heny.
Skylights 72, Yotes 55
Albertson College - Jori Grady 4-7 3-4 12, Kim Strunk 5-12 6-6 16, Angie Gribble 2-6 0-0 5, Krystn Patterson 1-6 0-0 2, Whitney Clark 1-4 1-4 3, Merilee Caldwell 1-3 2-2 5, Savannah Ames 1-1 0-0 3, Magen Duferrena 1-2 0-0 3, Whitney 2-8 2-2 6. Totals: 18-51 15-23 55.
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 3-9 4-4 10, Michele VanDyke 8-16 5-7 21, Camille Gardner 2-6 0-0 4, Chelsie Searle 1-7 2-2 5, Jaci Heny 4-10 10-11 20, Neesha Bravard 1-1 0-0 2, Jena Heggem 1-2 0-0 2, Ashley Trulock 4-11 0-1 8. Totals: 24-63 21-25 72.
3-point goals - Albertson 4-14 (Grady 1, Gribble 1, Caldwell 1, Ames 1), MSU-N 3-13 (Searle 1, Heny 2). Totals fouls - Albertson 22, MSU-N 21. Rebounds - Albertson 39, MSU-N 41. Fouled out - None.