George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
University of Montana-Western center Chloe Mosey has grabbed thousands of rebounds in her playing career. But none bigger than the offensive board she pulled down with :09 remaining a Frontier Playoff game against the Montana State University-Northern Skylights. Mosey secured a missed free throw by a Western teammate, and with it, the sixth-seeded Bulldogs secured a 52-50 upset win over the second-seeded Skylights in the opening round of the Frontier women’s playoffs Wednesday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse. “We just were fortunate that we had the ball bounce our way tonight, especially in the last 12 minutes,” Western head coach Kevin Engellant said. “We made some key free throws, and the ones we missed, we got offensive rebounds. We made some big hustle plays, and of course kids stepped up and made big shots. “We just battled all night against a very good team,” he added. “We have all the respect in the world for coach Mouat, and they (Skylights) had an amazing conference season. But I give our kids all the credit in the world, they just battled and a found a way.” In front of a hostile and boisterous Northern crowd, the Bulldogs seized momentum by going on a 10-0 run late in the second half as Genna Rucker made two layups and Mosey hit a 10-foot jumper to give the Bulldogs a 50-43 lead with 2:57 left in the game. The Skylights showed some poise and quickly stormed back on baskets by Jordan Kambich and Stacie Barker, and Western tried to aid Northern in its comeback bid by missing key free throws in the final minute. But the Skylights missed free throws of their own, and thanks to two offensive boards in the closing seconds, the Bulldogs were able to hang on and most likely bring the Skylight’s season to an end. “Every free throw we missed tonight was key,” MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. “We missed free throws and layups with the game on the line, we made bad turnovers with the game on the line. You can’t do those things and win in a game of this magnitude against a team like Western. We just were not at our best when the game was on the line tonight. “But you also have to give Western and their kids a lot of credit for that,” Mouat added. “They were aggressive and physical with us, they came and took the game away from us, and we never responded to it. So give them a lot of credit for doing that.” The Skylights were seemingly in control after a well-played first half by both teams. Western started well, but the Skylights responded, going inside to Barker early. And Awilda Hernandez came off the bench to give the short-handed Skylights a huge first-half boost. Hernandez sparked an 8-0 run by hitting two deep three’s, and Taylor Keller hit a pair of three’s, including one in the fi- nal seconds of the half to give Northern a 33-31 advantage. Then, the Skylights took that lead and ran with it early in the second stanza. MSU-N was ahead by seven points after a Kambich trey, and the Skylights led by eight with 12:09 to play at 41-33. During that same stretch, Western didn’t score in the second half until the 12:31 mark. But with their backs against the wall, the Bulldogs responded by ripping off a 9-2 run, and later a 10-0 run to wrestle the lead away from MSU-N, setting up a dramatic finish. “Things didn’t look good for us for a while there,” Engellant said. “But our kids really battled and found a way. They deserve a lot of credit. This was a tough environment to play in tonight. And it’s never easy to win here.” Northern was without starting senior guard Kaylee Shaw, and played with just seven players against the Bulldogs. Keller was also hampered by foul trouble and fouled out leading the Skylights with 13 points, three trey’s and three assists. In what was likely her last collegiate game, Barker finished with 10 points, nine boards and four blocks. Western (9-20), which will now advance to play top-seeded Westminster College Friday night in Salt Lake City, got 14 points from Rucker and nine off the bench from Alysa Brown. Wednesday night also marked the third straight season in which the Bulldogs have ousted the Skylights (18-12) from the Frontier tourney. “We’re disappointed, we disappointed ourselves tonight,” Mouat said. “We had a great conference season, and for 14 games we played at a very high level every night. But not tonight, especially when the game was on the line, and that’s disappointing. “But this was a good season, we came along way and made a lot of progress, and we’ll be fine heading into next year," he added.