By Rob Everingham
LEWISTON, Idaho For the first time in a long time, the MSU-Northern Skylights wrapped up their season at the Frontier Conference Tournament and will not be heading for the NAIA National Tournament.
The Skylights met Western Montana College on Friday night and the Bulldogs beat the Skylights for the second time in a little over a week, 90-71.
Western controlled the first half, but the Skylights pulled within two points at 24-22 with 6:17 left in the half.
The Bulldogs then went on a 19-6 run to lead 43-28 with 1:07 remaining in the half. Western led 43-33 at the break.
Western's biggest lead of the game came at the 14:57 mark of the game when they were up 58-37 on Northern.
Northern pushed its way back and cut the lead to just eight points on an Abby Hjorth jumper with 7:26 to go.
Western buried its free throws in the last seven minutes of the game, going 14-of-18 from the charity stripe to pull away.
The Bulldogs had six players in double figures with Alison Burlingame leading the way with 19 points. Bobbi Suhr finished with 17, Tanya Romer had 13, Misty Covington added 11, and Karly Tait and Linda Haugan had 10 apiece.
Northern was led by Hjorth who finished with 16 points. Also in double figures for the Skylights were Anna Fabatz with 15, Laura Munson added 13, and Jennifer Young finished with 10.
Western went on to beat No. 1-ranked Lewis-Clark State in the Frontier Conference women's championship, 82-80. Both L-C and Western are headed for the national tournament.
Northern head coach Ray Peters said his team played good against Western.
"We played our hearts out," Peters said. "We didn't always play smart, but we gave everything we had."
Going into the tournament, Peters said, they had as good of a shot at winning as anybody else did.
The Skylights got tremendous support off the bench with people coming in and stepping up, Peters said. He said it was a tough situation in a big-time game, when Northern was not at full strength.
Northern had a rough end of the season with Fabatz out the last third of the season, and Jana Smith went into the tournament with an injury, as did Kristine Noel.
Off the bench, Peters said, both Fabatz and Young had a great weekend, with Young coming through big against Westminster on Thursday night.
On Thursday night, Peters said, it was a game where they played great in the first half and put it on cruise control in the second half. Westminster came in with nothing to lose and, Peters said, he knew it was going to be an ugly game
For the season overall, Peters said, at times they had played very well and persevered through a very tough preseason schedule.
"This was probably the toughest schedule in the school's history," Peters said.
The Skylights did have a young team with just one senior in Noel. Peters said the younger athletes did great job of hanging in there in the preseason.
Peters said he looking forward to next year, returning a ton of players, plus, his recruiting is not done. Peters said they are looking at bringing in some "big-time people."
"The cupboard will be full," Peters said.