Close games are nothing new to the Montana State University-Northern women’s basketball team when it comes to playing Dickinson State and Minot State University.
And this weekend at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse was no different as the Skylights mounted a big comeback to beat DSU on Friday afternoon, then fell short in a bid to knock off Minot State Saturday night.
In a special matinee on Friday afternoon, the Skylights beat the Blue Hawks for a second time in as many years, overcoming an eight-point second-half deficit to win 59-50.
“We had to play from behind for much of the second half,” MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. “But as we chipped away at their (Blue Hawks) lead, we seemed to gain confidence and that turned into us making some shots, making some big plays and getting the lead back. Then, on defense, we got some really big stops in the last few minutes and Taylor (Keller) made some big drives to the basket. Those things really led us to be able to come back and win that game against a very good Dickinson team.”
Taylor Keller’s play in the final few minutes of Friday’s game was certainly instrumental. She scored seven points in the final 2:22 to help Northern not only complete the comeback, but hold off the Blue Hawks. Keller scored on back-to-back drives to the basket off DSU turnovers, which gave MSU-N a five-point lead with under two minutes to go, and the Skylights were able to seal the game at the foul line.
“Defensively, we saw they were switching on some screens and at the end of the game, they got caught on the screen a few times and I was able to make those drives to the basket,” Keller said. “And it just worked out.
“It was a really big win to beat them (Blue Hawks),” Keller, who scored 13 points said. “They are such a scrappy, tough team and they play so hard. But we really pulled together in the second half. And it was a big win for us.”
MSU-N trailed DSU 33-24 at halftime, and had to use a 9-0 run, capped off by Monica Hollowell 3-pointer to stay close, while the Blue Hawks closed the half on a 13-5 spurt.
Hollowell also hit another big three early in the second stanza and Jordan Bruursema made key plays in the paint to help pull the Skylights even at the 9:47 mark. From there, the Skylights kept battling until they got a lead they didn’t let go of.
“It was good to see us respond to being down,” Mouat said. “Dickinson is a tough team with good guards and good size, but our kids built up some confidence as the game went on and we were able to overcome some things that weren’t going in our favor.”
Bruursema finished the game with 10 points and five boards, while Laramie Schwenke and Hollowell each chipped in with eight.
In a similar game on Saturday night against Minot, the Skylights came up short 69-66, dropping them to 3-2 on the season.
Unlike against DSU, Northern started the game on fire, as the Skylights were raining three’s on the Beavers. Keller drilled three long-range bombs early on, and the Skylights used a Hollowell three near the end of the half to lead 38-37.
But Minot started the second half on 1 14-5 run and the Beavers reversed the role on MSU-N by hitting four trey’s in the second half, while the Skylights didn’t make one.
“That was the biggest difference between the two games this weekend,” Mouat said. “In the second half against Minot we really cooled off shooting the ball. We just didn’t make the shots we were making in the first half. I was pleased with our effort on defense and our offensive execution, but the shots just didn’t fall in the second half, and they (Beavers) made some big shots when they needed them.
“Their size also became a big factor in the second half too,” Mouat added. “They really outrebounded us, and we gave up way too many second-chance opportunities and too many fouls. That was a big difference down the stretch.”
Still, the Skylights had their chances late. MSU-N trailed by just one point most of the way, and in the waning seconds, they grabbed the lead on a layup by Hollowell. But trailing 65-64 with :27 left in the game, MSU’s Caroline Folven hit a 12-footer to put the Beavers back up by one. Northern went for a final game-winning shot, but Schermele was called for an offensive foul which negated the possession and allowed DSU to go up three at the free-throw-line. The Beavers then put Keller on the line so she couldn’t attempt a game-tying 3-pointer and wound up winning by three.
Scheremele finished with a game-high 20 points while Keller poured in 16. Hollowell added 13 in the loss, while the Beavers got 14 from Floven and 13 from former Hi-Line standout Scarra Molina.
Now, MSU-N (3-2) will go on the road for rematches with DSU on Friday night and Minot on Saturday.