A week off, a first home game in over a month and having to overcome injury problems. Those were just some of the challenges the Montana State University-Northern women’s basketball team overcame in a Thursday night nonconference win over the University of Great Falls.
Northern got a huge lift from junior guard Laramie Schwenke and sophomore Jordan Bruursema after losing senior guard Taylor Keller to an injury in the first half as the Skylights turned away the hot-shooting Argos 86-70 Thursday at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.
“I’m really happy with the win,” Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. “Especially considering UGF played very well and we hadn’t played a game in a while. And we hadn’t played at home for a long time, so I knew we would have some jitters.
“But the kids got it done,” he added. “They overcame some things tonight and found a way to get a win.”
Losing Keller was difficult, but MSU-N showed resiliency all night. Northern fought off a 21-5 UGF run in the first half and got a Monica Hollowell 3-pointer as the half expired to lead 33-31.
But the Argos, who made an astounding 10-of-19 three’s, fought back to within onepoint at 40-39 early in the second half. UGF got a seven-point swing via a technical foul on Northern, and with 15:32 left, it looked as though the Skylights were in for a dogfight.
But the adversity only seemed to motivate Northern, and the Skylights quickly went on a 10-2 run behind two steals and two quick buckets from Schwenke, and they regained the lead for good at 57-44.
“Coach talked about being proud of us for not letting the technical hurt us,” Schwenke said. “I think we really rallied around that moment in the game, and from there we played much better team basketball. We handled their (Argos) pressure better, we made some free throws and we executed much better.”
UGF still had some fight in it with the threes still falling from Chelsea Adams, Marissa Skogen and Kezia Ford, and with 1:49 to go, the Argos were within seven points at 75-68. But Northern never let go of the lead it had worked so hard to get, as Hollowell and Schwenke poured in key triples down the stretch, and the Skylights went a perfect 6-for-6 from the foul line in the final minute to ice the much-needed win.
“Credit to UGF,” Mouat said. “They played very well, they made big shots all night. But I thought we did some very good things in the second half. We got some big rebounds from Jordan (Bruursema) and Val (Gee) down the stretch and we executed late in the game. It was nice to see us get that lead and then play well with it.
“We had some defensive breakdowns that we need to get cleaned up,” he added. “And we didn’t finish shots tonight, but overall, we did the things necessary to win the game down the stretch and I’m proud of the kids for that.”
Even in the face of UGF’s 3-point display, the Skylights never wavered and shot 50 percent from the floor for the game. Samm Schermele scored a game-high 22 points, while Schwenke had a phenomenal all-around game, scoring 16 points, grabbing a game-high 10 rebounds, dishing out seven assists and coming up with five steals. Bruursema added 13 points and Courtney Blume had nine, while UGF got 22 points from Skogen.
And with an important win in tow, the Skylights (5-6) move on to face another tough opponent on Sunday night in Concordia College of Alberta.
“They will be a challenge for us on Sunday,” Mouat said of Concordia. “But right now, we’re happy to get this win. It’s really good to be back at home, playing in front of our funs and it was good to get a win tonight.”
The Skylights will take on Concordia at 6 p.m. Sunday night at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse.