By Kim Staudinger
The University of Great Falls Lady Argos came into Saturday's game against the Montana State University-Northern Skylights knowing they were a huge underdog, but ended up leaving as the team that managed to end Northern's 13-game winning streak.
The Skylights had not lost a game since falling to Westmont 61-58 in early November. Taking that pressure with them, the Skylights struggled in nearly every aspect of their game, losing to the upset-minded Argos 59-57.
Northern led by five at the half, 26-21, but shot an unimaginable 29.3 percent for the game. And, to make matters worse, the Skylights only made 5 of 21 three-point baskets for 23.8 percent.
"We played flat," Skylights head coach Kevin Emerick said. "We only scored 10 points in the first 13 minutes of the game. We just didn't show up ready to play."
Playing the Argos for the third time this season, the Skylights (15-3) may have overlooked UGF, which improved to 4-16 on the season.
"It's hard to beat a team a third time," Emerick said. "I thought they played well. It's just one loss and now we need to come back from it."
Aside from the poor shooting, another downfall for Northern once again was turnovers. The Skylights had 18 turnovers in the first half without having any full-court pressure from Great Falls.
"We didn't take care of the basketball and because we didn't take care of the ball, we didn't get it to the spots we wanted on the floor," Emerick said. "We allowed Great Falls to dictate where we had the ball on the floor."
Baskets were a rarity in the first half. Argos senior guard Deena Wisneiwski hit a three-pointer from the right corner at the 8:08 mark in the first half to tie the game at 10. Nearly two minutes later Miranda Weiser hit two three-pointers for the Skylights and Paula Owens added one to spark a two-minute scoring parade. Wisneiwski also had a three-point basket in the span, but the Skylights still took a 20-15 lead with 4:27 remaining. Scoring hit another lull until after the half when both teams came out on fire.
Northern and Great Falls traded baskets between Owens and Karen Savola for the first four minutes of the second half, and after two made free throws by Samantha Garrett, the Lady Argos were within one at 34-33.
Owens and Tamecia Watkins combined for two consecutive baskets to give the Skylights a five-point lead. But after a lay-up by Garrett and Wisneiwski's third three-pointer of the game, the Argos found themselves with a 41-40 lead.
Northern went on a scoreless streak which lasted nearly eight minutes of play and resulted in an 11-point lead for Great Falls. The Argos had a 12-point lead with 5:12 remaining in the game, but then went on a scoreless span of their own, lasting until the 1:46 mark in the game. During that span, the Skylights scored 12 points and cut the UGF lead to just four points. In the final 1:46 of the game, the Argos scored only three more points and missed three free throws that could have given Great Falls some much-needed breathing room down the stretch.
"We did not do a good job on the offensive boards," Emerick said. "We did a lot of standing around. We did not do a good job of attacking the basket at all until the last five minutes. They exposed some things we need to work on."
Still, Owens was able to tie the game at 57 with 11.5 seconds on the clock and give the Skylights hope to come away with the win. But Owens missed her second free throw, allowing the Argos one more shot at the win.
Watkins fouled Kim Freeman with 4.1 seconds left in the game to put the game literally on the line. Freeman made both of her free throws, putting the Argos ahead 59-57. As time expired, the UGF team exploded on the floor after winning their biggest game of the season so far. UGF got the win without two key players, who remained at home due to illnesses.
The Skylights were without Szudia Bragg, who was out due to academic problems. Bragg, who is a senior, could possibly be back before the end of the season.
Argos Deidre Ranf 2, Brook Rasby 3, Deena Wisneiwski 21, Kim Freeman 5, Sandi Washburn 2, Samantha Garrett 12, Karen Savola 14.
Skylights Miranda Weiser 6, Angee Thomas 3, Tamecia Watkins 8, Jenny Balgua 10, Nichole Neill 1, Sarah Gaugler 3, Paula Owens 26.