Havre Daily News sports editor
Sooner or later foul trouble was going to catch up with the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team.
It didn't hurt them so much last weekend against Rocky Mountain College or Carroll College. But on Thursday night foul trouble took its toll on the Skylights as they fell to upstart Westminster College, 76-72, in Salt Lake City.
Northern lost senior guard and leading scorer Jaci Heny to fouls with eight minutes left in Thursday's tight game, and forwards Michele VanDyke and DeLayne Johnston were playing down the stretch with four fouls apiece.
Still, the Skylights had two chances to tie the game with under 10 seconds remaining, but neither 3-point attempt fell, and the Griffins escaped with the victory.
“I am really proud of the way our kids came back and we had chances to tie the game at the end,” MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. “But the shots didn't fall for us. Our effort was very good tonight, but we just got into too much foul trouble and the fouls came at inopportune times.”
The loss drops the Skylights below .500 in conference play at 2-3, and it was only their second loss on the road this season. The Griffins evened up their conference record to 2-2.
“You have to give Westminster a lot of credit,” Mouat said. “They played well and they are very much improved. And they have an All-American candidate who played great against us tonight.”
That All-American candidate is 6-1 senior Shalee Fackrell. Although the Skylights held her below her 30-point-per-game average, she still poured in a game-high 27 points and grabbed 12 rebounds. What may have hurt the Skylights more was the 23 points that freshman Elisa Leader scored, including five threes. Westminster also outrebounded the Skylights 41-28.
“You can't afford those silly fouls that we made, and we have got to do a better job rebounding the basketball,” Mouat said. “We got killed on the boards tonight and it is really tough to win, especially on the road, when that happens.”
The loss overshadowed a career night from Northern guard Jenna Heggem. The junior poured in a season-high 17 points, and drilled five of the Skylights' six 3-pointers. The Skylights also got a huge outing from VanDyke, who scored a team-high 23 points.
“I have to praise Jenna Heggem's efforts,” Mouat said. “She really stepped up big in Jaci's absence and she kept us in the game at times because she really got hot from the 3-point line.”
While the loss stings some, there was a bright spot to Northern's night in Salt Lake. Injured teammate Chelsie Searle, a native of Shelly, Idaho, was able to attend the contest. Searle was badly injured in Northern's Nov. 14 van crash in western Montana.
“That was a very happy moment for us to see Chelsie Searle,” Mouat said. “Everybody was really happy to see her and she is doing very well.”
The Skylights (12-5) will be back in action Saturday night when they travel to Lewiston, Idaho, for a meeting with No. 13 Lewis-Clark State. Tipoff for the game is set for 7 p.m.
Griffins 76, Skylights 72
MSU-N - Camille Gardner 4-13 2-2 11, Jaci Heny 4-8 4-5 12 DeLayne Johnston 3-5 1-2 7, Jena Heggem 6-12 5-9 17, Michele VanDyke 9-14 5-8 23, Ashley Trulock 1-3 0-0 2. Totals: 27-58 12-17 72.
WC - Jordan Eckman 4-6 0-1 10, Janae Hirschi 3-4 3-5 10, Shalee fackrell 10-20 7-7 27, Shannon Evans 0-6 1-2 1, Elisa Leader 8-14 2-3 23, Amy Taggert 2-5 0-0 5. Totals: 27-63 13-18 76.
3-point goals - MSU-N 6-18 (Gardner 1, Heggem 5), WC 9-21 (Eckman 2, Hirschi 1, Leader 5, Taggert 1); Rebounds - MSU-N 28 (Johnston 7), WC 41 (Fackrell 12); Totald fouls - MSU-N 20, WC 17; Fouled out - Heny.