By Rob Everingham
LEWISTON, Idaho Chris Clark spelled disaster for the MSU-Northern Lights again on Friday night as he scored 29 points to lead Rocky Mountain over Northern 87-82 in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference Tournament.
The Lights kept it close in the first, but trailed by a bucket at 44-42.
In the second half, Northern tied the game at 60-60 with 10:54 to go.
Rocky responded with a 14-4 run, including 10 by Clark, to go up 74-64 on the Lights. Northern battled back and cut the Bears' lead to just a four points at 77-73 with 1:05 left.
From there the Lights were forced to foul and Rocky hit 5-of-7 free throws to ice the game.
Also in double figures for Rocky were Kevin McMann who finished with 15, Scott Malloy had 12, and Nate Greenig tallied 10.
Northern was led by senior Powell Becker who had 18. Michael Claxton, also a senior, finished with 16. Senior Russell Keller finished with 14, Chad Meyer had 14, and Dustin Endsley racked up 10 points.
The Bears went on to meet Lewis-Clark State in the championship with the Warriors winning the title, 86-76.
Northern head coach Tim Walker said his team played good in the first half, but a bigger and stronger Rocky team wore them down.
"They are a just a little stronger and bigger, it showed on the offensive rebounds and in the rebounding stats," Walker said.
Walker said he was happy with his team and they battled hard and could not get the shots to fall at the end of the game.
"It wasn't meant to be, we did everything we needed to do," Walker said.
The Bears had a first-round bye and, Walker said, they were very fresh after the Lights had battled Thursday night with Westminster.
On Thursday night against Westminster, Walker said, the Griffins played a zone defense and the Lights had good looks and shot the ball well, but Westminster hung around.
"They kept it close and that is how tournament games are supposed to be," Walker said.
Walker said it was hard playing just about back-to-back games against Westminster. The two teams met last weekend in the final game of the regular season.
The Lights finished with one All-Conference player in Mel Stubblefield. Keith Carothers and Becker were both honorable mentions.
Walker said any of those players would tribute their success to the whole team. Walker said he was pleased with how the team played together all year.
"They probably won a lot of games that they should not have won," Walker said.
The Lights lose four seniors this year but, Walker said, they have a great core coming back. He said they will be as solid at the guard spot as any other team in the conference.
Walker said he is headed out on the recruiting trail and trying to find players and get ready for next year.