Havre Daily News sports editor
Streaks, as the cliche goes, are made to be broken. And it just so happens the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team's six-game winning came to an end in its Frontier Conference season-opener against UM-Western on Friday night in Dillon.
The Skylights didn't let go of their winning ways without a fight. They came from way behind against the Bulldogs, only to fall short, 59-56.
The game was part of a weekend split, as the Skylights defeated Montana Tech on Saturday night, 98-54.
Northern fell behind 17-0 to start Friday night's game, as the much bigger Western front line assumed command. By the time the first 20 minutes of the contest were in the books, the Skylights were trailing 36-18.
That deficit turned out to be too much for them, MSU-N first-year head coach Chris Mouat said.
“We came out very flat to start the game and nothing was going right for us,” Mouat said. “We played much better in the second half, and I was happy with our effort and our ability to come back and make a game out of it.
“But we just fell too far behind in the first half,” he added. “And it was something we just couldn't completely overcome.”
Something else the Skylights struggled with was Western's size. The Bulldogs' interior play dominated the game, as forward Katherine Sunwall racked up a huge double-double, scoring 18 points and grabbing a game-high 20 rebounds. Although she was in foul trouble throughout the night, 6-1 Weber State transfer Becky O'Neil made her presence felt as well, scoring 14 points.
“We played much better in the second half and we found some things we could do against them that worked well,” Mouat said. “But their size and physicality was something we have not seen this year .
“Still, we made a good run at them down the stretch,” he added. “But in the end we didn't have enough left to come all the way back.”
Like Sunwall, MSU-N forward DeLayne Johnston posted a monster double-double. The junior scored 15 points and pulled down a career-high 19 rebounds. Point guard Camille Gardner scored a game-high 21 points, including three of Northern's five 3-pointers.
It only took the Skylights 24 hours to show why, despite the loss in Dillon, they are going to be one of the upper-tier teams in the Frontier Conference in 2006. The Skylights went into Butte and hammered Montana Tech on Saturday night, 98-54, to break even for the weekend.
“I couldn't be more pleased with how things went against Montana Tech,” Mouat said. “We went in and got off to a great start, played great defense throughout the game, and the whole team played really well.”
As the Bulldogs did on Friday night, the Skylights came roaring out of the gates against Tech and never looked back. By halftime Northern led 47-24, and the team didn't slow down in the second half.
Five Skylights reached double figures, including freshman reserve Mandee Carroll, who came off the bench to score a career-high 15 points.
“That was one of the nice things to come out of how well we played against Tech,” Mouat said. “A lot of players got a lot of minutes, and Mandee Carroll had a really nice game for us.”
Johnston was again the catalyst, scoring a game-high 25 points. Ashley Trulock and Jaci Heny added 16 points apiece, and Michele VanDyke chipped in with 11 points.
“We're happy to come away with a split this weekend,” Mouat said. “We would like to think that if we could have got off to a better start in Dillon, things might have been different.
“But it didn't work out that way,” he added. “We know that every game in our conference is going to be difficult and very important, so to get a split this weekend was big for us.”
The Skylights (11-3, 1-1) will be back at home Friday night when they host Rocky Mountain College. Northern will face nationally ranked Carroll College on Saturday night.
Bulldogs 59, Skylights 56
MSU-N - DeLayne Johnston 5-11 5-5 15, Michele VanDyke 1-8 3-6 5, Camille Gardner 9-17 0-0 21, Jaci Heny 4-11 3-4 13, Neesha Bravard 1-1 0-0 2. Totals: 20-51 11-15 56.
UMW - Becky O'Neil 7-10 0-4 14, Katherine Sunwall 9-13 0-2 18, Megan Schmitz 5-14 0-0 12, Billi Suhr 2-7 3-4 7, Lindsey Scott 1-2 0-0 3, Laura Shea 2-6 0-0 4, Collette Behrent 0-2 1-2 1. Totals: 26-59 4-12 59.
3-point goals - MSU-N 5-11 (Gardner 3, Heny 2), UMW 3-18 (Schmitz 2, Scott 1), Rebounds - MSU-N 34, UMW 35; Total fouls - MSU-N 15, UMW 12; Fouled out - O'Neil.
Skylights 98, Orediggers 54
MSU-N (1-1, 11-3) - DeLayne Johnston 11-17 3-4 25, Jena Heggem 2-5 0-0 5, Michele VanDyke 4-6 3-3 11, Camille Gardner 3-6 0-0 7, Jaci Heny 4-8 5-5 16, Neesha Bravard 0-2 3-4 3, Mandee Carroll 3-3 7-8 15, Ashley Trulock 7-10 2-3 16. Totals 34-57 23-27 98.
MT (0-2, 4-12) - Kate Strietz 5-12 1-2 11, Kyle Cook 2-8 0-0 4, Tami Infante 2-6 2-2 6, Marcie Alzheimer 5-11 2-2 12, Jordan Kambich 2-6 1-2 6, Shelli Vicars 0-0 0-0 0, Jonna Davis 0-2 0-0 0, Stephanie Baertsch 0-4 2-2 2, Jacqui Millam 0-4 0-0 0, Kelsey Devries 1-2 0-0 3, Johanna Fryer 4-9 2-2 10. Totals 21-64 10-12 54.
3-point goals - Northern 7-11 (Heggem 1-3, Gardner 1-1, Heny 3-4, Bravard 0-1, Carroll 2-2), Tech 2-20 (Cook 0-2, Infante 0-1, Alzheimer 0-2, Kambich 1-4, Davis 0-1, Baertsch 0-3, Millam 0-4, Devries 1-2, Fryer 0-1). Rebounds - Northern 40 , Tech 29; Fouls - Northern 13, Tech 21. Fouled out - Fryer.