Havre Daily News sports editor
Carroll College sophomore Jolene Fuzesy has made a lot of 3-pointers in the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse over the years - most of which were when she was all alone.
So when the game between her Saints and the Montana State University-Northern Skylights was hanging in the balance Saturday night in Havre, there was no doubt who was going to take the final shot.
And in her mind, there was no doubt that she would make it.
Fuzesy, a former Havre High standout, drilled a coldblooded 3-pointer with two seconds remaining Saturday night to give No. 15 Carroll College a 62-61 win over the No. 24 Skylights.
“I feel very comfortable shooting the ball here, so I wasn't nervous about taking the last shot,” Fuzesy said. “I have shot a lot of jump shots in this gym and I was very confident that if I could get open I would make the shot.”
Fuzesy's dagger was part of a game-high 20-point night, which included six 3-pointers. The former Havre and Malta prep star's final trey capped off a thrilling comeback by the Saints and left the Skylights scratching their heads after a weekend split with Carroll and Rocky Mountain College.
“I thought we played very well tonight,” MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. “I told the girls after the game that we have nothing to hang our heads about.
“We played a very hard-fought game and overcame foul trouble and injuries and were in a position to win the game at the end,” he added. “But give all the credit to Carroll and to Jolene. They never quit and they did a tremendous job to come back on us. And there is a reason Jolene is the best 3-point shooter in our conference. We had the play defended well, but she got open just enough, and a great shooter will make a shot like that.”
For almost the entire game the Skylights played well enough to beat the Saints. Northern swept aside serious foul trouble for forwards DeLayne Johnston and Michele VanDyke, as well as an ankle injury to point guard Camille Gardner, and held a 10-point lead with eight minutes left in the game.
But Carroll ripped off a 10-2 run in the next four minutes to get back within two points. That run appeared to be as close as the Saints would get. Jaci Heny, as she has done so often, took over the game and started to attack the basket, winding up at the foul line, where she was a perfect 6-for-6 down the stretch.
With a six-point lead with less than two minutes to go, it appeared the Skylights would hold on for the upset win, but Carroll kept chipping away at the lead. When Fuzesy nailed her fifth trey with just over a minute to go, Carroll was back within one point, 60-59.
Reserve forward Ashley Trulock, playing well in relief after VanDyke fouled out with four minutes left in the game, could only make one of two free throws, giving Carroll and Fuzesy a chance to tie or win the game with 13 seconds left. Fuzesy, who had turned the ball over on Carroll's previous possession, wouldn't be denied on the Saints' final chance. She raced to a spot, and Carroll set just enough of a screen to get her a look at the game-winner, and the rest was history.
“It is very special to come up here and help my team win a game that we really needed to win,” Fuzesy said. “I only played one year in Havre, but the people here have always been really supportive of me. This just feels awsome to come here and make a game-winning shot.”
Fuzesy's heroics overshadowed a fabulous effort by the shorthanded Skylights, who overcame a 30-26 halftime deficit to be in a position to upset the Saints. The Skylights started the second half strong, going on a 12-2 run to take the lead away from the Saints, setting up the wild finish.
Northern got a balanced scoring night led by Heny's team-high 17 points. Gardner, who was hobbled in the second half by an injured ankle, added 11 points, and Trulock came off the bench to score 11.
“Ashley Trulock played very well and she had to play a ton of minutes,” Mouat said. “We were in foul trouble and we needed her to step in, and she responded well. I think she gained a lot of confidence tonight.”
In addition to Fuzesy's 20 points, the Saints got 11 points from Emily Woody and 10 points from Carly Syverson. The Saints made 8-of-22 3-pointers, while the Skylights were held to 2-of-11 from beyond the arc. Carroll also won the battle at the free-throw line, which hampered the Skylights down the stretch.
Fortunately for MSU-N, the weekend didn't start out as shockingly as it ended. Despite foul trouble and a poor shooting night from the field, the Skylights handled visiting Rocky Mountain College on Friday night, 65-54.
“Neither team shot the ball well on Friday night,” Mouat said. ‘It was kind of an ugly game from that standpoint.
“But I think we were able to get to the free-throw line down the stretch, and I thought we played really tough defense all night, and that was the difference in the game,” he added. “Rocky played very hard and they played well, and we're glad to come away with a win.”
The Skylights had their ups and downs throughout the contest. But once they ripped off 13 straight unanswered points to take a 13-4 lead early, it seemed as though they never lost control of the game.
The Skylights went on a 10-minute field goal drought halfway through the first half, but finished strong by outscoring the Bears, 16-3, in the final seven minutes to take a 35-22 lead into the locker room.
Northern maintained that double-digit lead throughout the second half, and road a 17-for-20 night from Heny at the charity stripe to victory. Heny wound up scoring a game-high 28 points.
“I take a lot of pride in my free-throw shooting and I'm actually disappointed that I missed a few,” Heny said. “But I knew that once we got a big lead, they were going to have to foul us, so I made a point to take the ball and make sure they put me on the line at the end of the game.”
Said Mouat: “Jaci really led us against Rocky. She is a great free-throw shooter and she did a great job of getting to the foul line in the second half and putting the game away for us.”
Despite being in foul trouble, Johnston and VanDyke scored 11 and 10 points, respectively, and Gardner added 11 points.
The loss overshadowed a huge night from Rocky freshman Josie Evans, who scored 18 points and grabbed a game-high 20 rebounds. Former Havre High standout Jeri Matter also chipped in with 10 points in the loss.
“This was an important win for us,” Heny said. “All week our focus was on Rocky. We knew that the Carroll game was a big one, but all we worked on was beating Rocky. We didn't play that well offensively, but we stayed focused and we really worked hard to get this win.”
The weekend split isn't what the Skylights had in mind, as they appeared to have Carroll on the ropes on Saturday night. Nevertheless, Mouat is happy with his team's first conference home-stand of the year.
“You wish you could have a few seconds back in the Carroll game and we go 2-0 this weekend,” Mouat said. “But I am proud of how this team played against two quality opponents. We overcame a lot this weekend, just as we have all year.”
The Skylights (12-4, 2-2) will be on the road Thursday night when they visit Westminster College in Salt Lake City. They will travel to Lewis-Clark State on Saturday night.
Skylights 65, Bears 54
RMC - Lori Jo Neubauer 1-9 0-0 3, Alyssa Root 4-10 1-3 10, Jeri Matter 4-10 2-3 10, Josie Matter 7-15 4-7 18, Stephanie Neubauer 0-4 0-0 0, Amy Schillinger 0-2 0-0 0, Beth Ueland 0-4 0-1 0, Gretchen Wall 0-1 0-0 0, Alysa Brown 3-6 7-9 13. Totals 19-61 14-23 54.
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 4-12 3-3 11, Jena Heggem 1-7 2-2 5, Michele VanDyke 4-5 2-5 10, Camille Gardner 4-11 1-2 11, Jaci Heny 5-14 17-20 28, Neesha Bravard 0-1 0-0 0, Mandee Carroll 0-0 0-0 0, Ashley Trulock 0-4 0-0 0. Totals 18-54 25-32 65.
3-point goals - RMC 2-16 (L. Neubauer 1-5, Root 1-4), MSU-N 4-19 (Heggem 1-6, Gardner 2-7, Heny 1-5, ). Fouled out - L. Neubauer, Johnston. Total fouls - RMC 25, MSU-N 19. Technicals - none. Rebounds - RMC 47 (Evans 20), MSU-N 40 (Johnston 10).
Saints 62, Skylights 61
CC - Emili Woody 3-7 5-6 11, Amy Brooks 3-4 0-2 8, Carly Syverson 4-13 1-2 10, Jolene Fuzesy 6-12 2-3 20, Andrea Hall 1-2 2-2 5, Danielle Maloney 1-8 0-0 2, Megan Kane 0-0 0-0 0, Sophi Forney 3-4 0-0 6, Katie Rodgers 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 21-51 12-19 62.
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 2-7 2-4 6, Jena Heggem 2-4 0-1 4, Michele VanDyke 3-7 2-2 8, Camille Gardner 5-9 1-1 11, Jaci Heny 5-16 5-6 17, Neesha Bravard 1-2 0-0 2, Mandee Carroll 1-2 0-0 2, Ashley Trulock 5-9 1-2 11. Totals 24-56 11-16 61.
3-point goals - CC 8-22 (Syverson 1-5, Fuzesy 6-11, Hall 1-2, ), MSU-N 2-11 (Heny 2-8). Fouled out - VanDyke. Total fouls - CC 15, MSU-N 16. Technical - none.