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Long nights, high drama for Lights

Northern opens Frontier play with wild overtime split against Rocky, Carroll

 

December 4, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Charles Porter scoops a shot during Friday night's Frontier Conference overtime win over Rocky Mountain College. Porter had several clutch shots in what was a wild weekend for the Lights.

In a 24-hour span, the Montana State University-Northern Lights have probably never had two more dramatic Frontier Conference games than the two they played this weekend. And it was only the beginning.

Northern began league play Friday night with a thrilling 99-93 overtime victory over Rocky Mountain College in the Armory Gymnasium. However, 24 hours later, Northern was on the other end of the drama, as No. 12 Carroll College outlasted the Lights in a wild overtime game, 99-90.

The incredible split in the Armory left Northern at 1-1 in the Frontier, and, after two long and grueling games, exhausted.

"I'm proud of the way our kids battled and fought their tails off tonight (Saturday), especially after going to overtime the night before," Northern head coach Shawn Huse said. "It was a really tough loss, but, these last two games, our kids fought as hard as they could and gave it everything against two really good Frontier Conference basketball teams."

Indeed. Before the intense game against Carroll, the Lights had to scratch and claw their way to a win over the Battlin' Bears. In the Frontier opener for both teams, Northern buried eight first-half 3-pointers on its way to a 42-38 halftime edge. But, by the midway point of the second half, the Bears had overtaken the Lights, and led by as many as five points down the stretch.

And that's when things got interesting. Rocky's Chad Kananan nailed a triple with :46 left in regulation, putting the Bears up 79-76. Northern climbed back to within one point, but after two Jared Samuelson free throws, the Bears led 81-78 with just 8 seconds left. And that's when senior Charles Porter stepped up. Porter drove the lane, even though the Lights needed three to tie, and made a layup while getting fouled. He calmly sank a free throw to tie the game at 81-81, and a Devin Bray steal on the other end sent the game into OT.

"We knew we had time for a two or a three," Porter said. "Coach Huse said, if it's there, just get to the basket, and that's what I do best, so I went for it and I got fouled.

"Charles made some big-boy plays, at the end of regulation, and again in overtime," Huse added. "And that free throw, that was a big-boy free throw. He really led us tonight."

Porter had another 3-point play early in overtime, which knotted the game at 85-85. Then, junior Anthony Harper made two shots in a one-minute stretch, and Justin Dunsmore nailed a triple as the shot clock expired, putting the Lights up 93-89 with :26 left. Adam Huse and Bray would combine for six free throws to seal the victory.

"It's big-time for us," Porter said. "We blew two big games out in Portland, and we showed tonight that we learned from that. This is going to help us a lot as we go deep into the season."

The comeback was ignited not only by Porter's heroics, but a balanced Northern offense, which was able to counter a combined 61 points from Rocky's Samuelson, a former Montana Grizzly, and Latrielle Franklin. Northern shot 50 percent from the field, and went 13-of-25 from three, with Huse and Bray combining for six bombs. Porter led with 21 points, while Huse finished with 19, Gabe Porter and Dunsmore each had 14, Bray finished with 12 and Ryan Reeves had 10 points and seven boards while saddled with foul trouble.

"I thought we learned a lot from those two games in Oregon," Coach Huse said. "Those were two very similar games that slipped away from us, and tonight, our guys were poised, they didn't panic, they knew they were playing well, and they just continued to battle. They weren't going to be denied. I'm really proud of them for that.

"Hats off to Rocky as well," Huse added. "They came in here and played really well, and they're going to be a team to be reckoned with in this league this year. But that's what's great about this win for our guys. It shows them they can play with a very good basketball team, and that they can get the job done. Our crowd was awesome tonight. They gave us a huge lift when we needed it. I'm just really proud of this team."

Déjà vu, Almost

Huse was also extremely proud of his team for their efforts against the 12th-ranked Fighting Saints Saturday night. But in the end, it was Carroll that had the final heroics.

The Saints erased a 12-point Northern lead in the second half, with a relentless full-court press, one that helped Carroll score a 14-4 run in less than three minutes, and ultimately take the lead at 81-79 with :55 left in regulation. It was Carroll's first lead since the 17:40 mark of the first half.

But Charles Porter came up clutch again, and knotted the game up at 81-81 with :26 remaining, and Carroll waited for what they thought would be a final shot. And it was a big one, as Match Burnham, who made four 3-pointers in the final 10 minutes, drilled a trey, lifting Carroll to an 84-81 lead with just .06 left.

And that's when things took an even wilder turn.

Northern's Justin Dunsmore heaved a pass to Adam Huse, who was just across half court, and with a Carroll defender right in his face, Huse turned and threw the ball at the basket as time expired. The shot went in, sending the Northern faithful into a frenzy of epic proportions. After the referees conferred, the shot would count, and regulation ended at 84-84.

But, that would be Northern's final gasp in a game that saw Huse drill four triples in the first half, and the Lights lead by as many as 17 points before halftime. Because in overtime, Carroll was dominant, and the Lights were without star center Ryan Reeves, who had been dominant himself before fouling out.

The Saints opened the extra frame with a Matt Wyman Dunk, and though the Lights hung tough briefly, Carroll made three straight triples, and outscored the Lights 15-6 in the OT.

"It's a very disappointing loss," Coach Huse said. "Because I felt like we played really good basketball, against a really good team (Carroll) for much of that game. Ultimately, some missed opportunities on offense, and their ability to pressure us down the stretch, and us turning it over a few times was the difference. Their pressure was huge, they are long and athletic, and they were poised, and it hurt us at the end of the game."

Northern did control the narrative for much of Saturday night's showdown. Two early dunks by Reeves, and back-to-back three's from Adam Huse and Devin Bray gave the Lights a 29-12 lead with 6:33 left in the first stanza. Reeves would also slam one home on a coast-to-coast breakaway, and while Carroll managed a 10-0 run late, the Lights were still in front 39-30 at intermission.

Northern would then answer a 9-0 Carroll run midway through the second half, with a 12-2 run of its own, including a steal and dunk by Reeves, as well as two threes apiece from Huse and Gabe Porter. But in the end, and even after Huse' miracle shot at the buzzer, the Lights would run out of steam against the veteran Saints.

"It was frustrating because I thought, right when Carroll was finding its rythem offensively, is when Ryan fouled out" Coach Huse said. "So with them really starting to get going offensively, and having Ryan sitting on the bench, when he had played so well, and then us probably being tired from playing an overtime game the night before, and Carroll coming in on fresh legs, that was a bad combination for us. And I thought that carried into the overtime."

No doubt, the loss was a heartbreaker for the Lights, who seemed to be in complete control of the contest for nearly 40 minutes. Even in foul trouble, and going up against Carroll star Ryan Imhoff, Reeves was dominant, scoring 20 points, grabbing 12 rebounds and blocking four shots. Huse was incredible as well, hitting five treys and scoring 19 points, while Gabe Porter scored a team-high 21 points and nailed five triples as well. The Lights also out-rebounded Carroll, which got a game-high 34 from Imhoff, as well as 27 by Burnham, but turnovers, fouls and fatigue ultimately doomed the Lights in their upset bid.

"You can always look back and think of 100 different things you wish, or might do differently in a game like that," Coach Huse said. "But at the end of the day, we're going to use this game, and learn from it, and get right back on the horse, because we know, moving forward, there's a lot of tough Frontier Conference games ahead of us."

The Lights (7-3) return to non-conference play this Thursday with a home game against Yellowstone Christian College.

Lights are 1-1 in Frontier, 7-3 overall; Next Up: vs Yellowstone Christian Thursday

Lights 99, Rocky 93 OT

RMC - Chad Kananen 1-5 0-0 3, Danny Betcher 4-5 3-4 11, Grant Wallace 0-0 0-0 0, Craig Wilmore 1-2 0-0 2, Austin Payne 3-7 2-4 10, Jared Samuelson 12-15 7-8 31, Satchel McDonald 0-1 0-0 0, Colin May 0-1 0-0 0, Joe'l Towers 2-4 0-0 6, Latrelle Franklin 12-22 5-7 30. Totals 35-62 17-23 93.

MSU-N - Adam Huse 6-10 4-4 19, Caulin Bakalarski 2-3 0-0 5, Anthony Harper 2-3 0-0 4, Devin Bray 3-4 3-4 12, Justin Dunsmore 4-9 4-6 14, Charles Porter 8-12 5-6 21, Cayeveoon Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Reeves 4-13 2-2 10, Gabe Porter 4-11 2-3 14. Totals 33-65 20-25 99.

Halftime: Northern 42-38. 3-pt FG:Rocky Mountain 6-15 (Kananen 1-3, Payne 2-5, Samuelson 0-1, Towers 2-3, Franklin 1-3), MSU-Northern 13-25 (Huse 3-4, Bakalarski 1-2, Bray 3-4, Dunsmore 2-5, Porter 0-1, Porter 4-9). Rebounds: Rocky Mountain 37 (Samuelson 12), MSU-Northern 28 (Reeves 7). Fouls Rocky Mountain 21, MSU-Northern 19. Fouled out: McDonald, Reeves.

Carroll 99, Lights 90 OT

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

MSU-Northern's Adam Huse takes a shot during Saturday night's game against Carroll College in Havre. Huse drained a dramatic half-court shot to send the game into overtime, before the Lights fell to the nationally-ranked Fighting Saints.

CC - Dane WARP 0-1 0-0 0, Emilio MANCOL 0-1 0-0 0, Match BURNHAM 7-12 9-10 27, Lorel JOHNSON 5-6 1-2 11, Ryan IMHOFF 12-27 9-11 34, Matt WYMAN 6-11 6-6 19, Ife KALEJAIYE 1-3 0-0 2, A SANTOS PIQUERAS 2-4 2-2 6, Oliver CARR 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 33-67 27-31 99.

MSU-N - Adam Huse 6-7 0-0 17, Caulin Bakalarski 2-6 0-0 4, Anthony Harper 1-3 0-0 2, Devin Bray 1-6 6-6 9, Justin Dunsmore 3-11 1-2 8, Charles Porter 4-9 1-3 9, Cayeveoon Jones 0-0 0-0 0, Ryan Reeves 8-8 4-6 20, Gabe Porter 6-10 4-4 21. Totals 31-60 16-21 90.

Halftime: Northern 39-30. 3-pt FG:Carroll College 6-11 (BURNHAM 4-6, IMHOFF 1-2, WYMAN 1-1, KALEJAIYE 0-1, SANTOS PIQUERAS 0-1), MSU-Northern 12-30 (Huse 5-6, Bakalarski 0-1, Bray 1-6, Dunsmore 1-7, Porter 0-2, Porter 5-8). Rebounds: Carroll College 35 (WYMAN 8), MSU-Northern 32 (Reeves 12). Fouls Carroll College 19, MSU-Northern 21. Fouled out: BURNHAM, Reeves.

 

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