By Rob Everingham
Keith Carothers led five MSU-Northern players in double figures with 22 points as the Lights clinched a playoff spot by downing the Montana Tech Orediggers 87-81 in Frontier Conference action Monday at the MSU-Northern gymnasium.
Northern opened up a quick 9-4 lead with 15:38 left in the first half off a Powell Becker basket.
The Orediggers (6-17, 1-7) battled back to open their biggest lead of the game at 27-19 off a David Tholen bucket.
The Lights fought back to take a 37-35 lead with 27 seconds left in the first half but a foul at the buzzer, followed by a technical foul on Northern's Michael Claxton, sent Scott Leland to the free throw line.
Leland connected on all four free throws, lifting Tech to a 39-37 lead at the end of the first half.
Northern opened the second half with an 8-2 run to take a 52-44 lead off a Carothers basket with 15:20 left.
Again the Orediggers climbed their way back in to the game. A Tholen basket with 11:27 to go tied the game at 55-55.
Northern led 64-62 before going on a 23-6 run in which Carothers had 12 points, including two 3-pointers.
The Lights' barrage gave them their biggest lead of the game at 87-68 with 50.3 seconds left on the clock.
Tech finished with a flurry but it was not enough to overcome Northern.
The Orediggers were led by Keenon Clement who had a game-high 33 points. Leland and Tholen each added 11.
For the Lights, also in double figures were Claxton with 16 points and nine rebounds. Becker added 14, Krste Serafimoski dumped in 13 and Mel Stubblefield finished with 10.
The win moves the Lights to 16-11 overall and 4-5 in the conference.
Lights' assistant coach Jon Hanson said it was definitely a much needed win for the Lights, who were coming off back-to-back losses.
Even though the Lights are guaranteed a spot at the Frontier Conference Tournament, Hanson said, that takes no pressure off his team.
Hanson said the Lights would like to get into second place going into the tournament and they will need to peak during the tournament.
"We have to be at our best," Hanson said.
As for Carothers, Hanson said, they need him to get his 15 points a game. Carothers shot well the first time against Tech but since then has been in a slump.
Hanson said it was nice to see him break out of that against Tech and get some open shots.
Again the Lights came out a little flat in the first half, Hanson said, but picked up their intensity in the second half of play.
Hanson also cites their success to their bench play. Whether it is Dustin Endsley or Serafimoski, when the Lights win they have great bench play, Hanson added.
After playing three games in five days, the Lights are off until Saturday when they play Carroll College at Havre.
The Lights would like to thank Dave and Judy Greenwood at Taco Johns for being their home game sponsor and for their support. Also, the Lights would like to thank 1st Security Bank for their help with the 3-point fund-raiser.
Montana Tech 79
Montana Tech Scott Leland 2-5 6-6 11; Ryan Troxel 2-3 1-4 5; Lindsay Woolley 1-6 0-0 3; Nate Kelsey 1-1 1-1 3; Jaiger Allen 3-7 0-4 7; Keenon Clement 14-19 5-9 33; Raendhard Wesselschmidt 1-3 0-0 2; Josh Bremmer 1-3 2-3 4; David Tholen 5-7 1-1 11; Justin Thatcher 1-2 6-1 2. Totals: 31-56 15-29.
MSU-Northern Russell Keller 1-1 0-0 2; Michael Claxton 7-12 0-0 16; Bruce Stacy 1-2 0-0 2; Mel Stubblefield 4-4 1-2 10; Dustin Endsley 1-4 2-2 5; Powell Becker 5-11 4-6 14; Keith Carothers 7-13 5-8 22; Chad Meyer 1-2 0-0 3; Krste Serafimoski 6-11 1-1 13. Totals: 33-60 13-21.
Halftime MT 39, MSU-N 37. Three-pointers: MT 3-10 (Leland 1-3, Woolley 1-4, Allen 1-1); MSU-N 8-17 (Claxton 2-4, Stubblefield 1-1, Endsley 1-2, Carothers 3-5, Meyer 1-2); Rebounds: MT 37 (Clement 12); MSU-N 30 (Claxton 9); Assists: MT 10 (Clement 3); MSU-N 24 (Stubblefield 7); Turnovers: MT 18; MSU-N 12; Total fouls: MT 24 (fouled out: Wesselschmidt); MSU-N 25 (Fouled out: none).