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Dawgs, Bears pull away from short-handed Skylights

 

February 24, 2020

Jim Potter

Montana State University-Northern's Reilly Walsh shoots during Saturday night's senior night game against Montana Western in the Armory Gymnasium. The Skylights fell to the Bulldogs, as well as to Rocky Mountain College on Friday night.

The Montana State University-Northern Skylights were hoping to start off their senior weekend in the Armory Gymnasium with a win. But more untimely injuries, and a surging Rocky Mountain College team had other ideas.

Friday night in the Armory, the Skylights fell to the No. 24 Battlin' Bears 56-49, in a game that saw them lose starting point guard McKenzie Gunter to injury for the third time this season, while double-digit scorers Tiara Gilham and Hailey Nicholson were also out with major injuries.

And while Northern head coach Chris Mouat wasn't interested in making injury excuses, there's no denying, the loss of those three players hurt, especially offensively, where MSU-N shot just 34 percent and made just one 3-pointer.

"McKenzie brings so much to our team, so to lose her like that was a huge blow," Mouat said. "But I was really proud of how our kids responded. A lot of kids stepped up. They gutted it out, played really hard. I was proud of them for that.

"Obviously we didn't shoot it well enough," he continued. "And Rocky knocked down some big shots anytime we got close. But our effort, our intensity, that was there tonight."

Rocky, which beat the Skylights for the second time in three weeks, started with two buckets from Markaela Francis, as the Battlin' Bears jumped out to a 11-4 lead. Kenya Lorton hit a couple of shots to keep things close at 14-10, but Kloie Thatcher buried back-to-back triples to push the Bears to a 27-19 halftime edge, and two more closed out the third with the Bears in front 44-31.

Northern rallied late in the fourth with back-to-back layups from Reilly Walsh and Petra Sellin, but it wasn't enough as the Bears finished the game out.

Rocky, which hit 12 threes against the Skylights earlier this month in Billings, only hit four this time around, with Thatcher pouring in a game-high 21 points. Francis finished with 17, as RMC out-rebounded Northern. On the other end, Sydney Hovde battled Francis hard, finishing with 16 points and eight boards, while Lorton added 11 off the bench. Walsh scored eight as well.

"We just have to shoot the ball better," Mouat said. "We got good looks tonight, we executed well. We just have to finish."

Dawgs run away from Skylights

The final night of Northern's home schedule didn't get any better for the injured and struggling Skylights. On senior night in the Armory Saturday night, Northern watched as No. 18 Montana Western ripped off a pair of huge runs in the second and third quarters to beat the Skylights 70-58.

The setback dropped MSU-N to just 4-12 in the Frontier Conference.

"We came out with great energy and great effort," Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. "We were ready. We got the lead up to 12 and had a chance to increase. So the effort and energy were there tonight. I was proud of our kids for being focused and ready to go."

The Skylights got off to a great start, with senior Sellin fittingly scoring the first two points of the night. A pair of 3-pointers by Allix Goldhahn would help Northern take the lead halfway through the first quarter, and eventually edge in front of the defending national champion Dawgs, 18-12.

Goldhahn and Peyton Kehr then went back-to-back from three to open the second stanza and the Skylights led 24-12. That's where things came undone for Northern.

Sydney Sheridan came off the bench to drill a three that would ultimately send Western on an eight-minute, 17-0 run, and a 32-29 halftime lead. Of course, trailing by just three points was no big deal, but Western wasn't done either. The Bulldogs went on a 12-0 run early in the third quarter, and while Ryley Kehr ended the run with a trey, 11 points in the quarter by Shainey Mack gave Western a 61-42 lead after three, and the Skylights never recovered.

After starting slow, Western would shoot 45 percent from the field, and they scored extremely well in transition. The Dawgs' bench was huge, too, with Brynley Fitzgerald and Mack combining for 26 points. Gracey Meyer led with 17.

Northern had its positives, too. The Skylights won the battle of the boards 33-30, they forced 13 turnovers and made five first half threes. Goldhahn finished with five bombs and 20 points, while Kenya Lorton scored nine off the bench.

In the end, though, it wasn't enough, as Western kept ahold of first place in the Frontier standings, while the Skylights (15-12) will finish the regular season with road games at Carroll College Friday night and Providence Saturday.

"I thought for much of the night, we shot the ball well, and we played good defense, but in the middle of the second to the end of third quarter, we weren't very good on either end, and they were. Western did a great job of making shots, and we didn't respond. 29 points in a quarter is way too many. And they (Bulldogs) took advantage of that stretch.

"I was pleased with how we played for much of the night," he continued. "But we have to do it for four quarters."

Skylights are 4-12 in Frontier, 15-12 overall; Next Up: at Carroll Friday

Rocky Mountain 56, Skylights 49

Rocky Mountain 14 13 17 12 - 56

MSU-Northern 10 9 12 18 - 49

RMC - Markaela Francis 6-9 5-9 17, Olivia James 0-0 0-0 0, Antuanisha Wright 2-6 0-0 4, Kloie Thatcher 7-17 3-3 21, Mackenzie Dethman 1-5 0-0 2, Grace Parker 3-6 0-0 6, Leah Gannon 1-1 0-0 2, Keahi-lele Roy 2-5 0-0 4. Totals 22-49 8-12 56.

MSU-N - Kenya Lorton 4-15 2-2 11, Reilly Walsh 3-5 2-2 8, Petra Sellin 1-2 0-0 2, Allix Goldhahn 1-7 3-4 5, Jada Nicholson 0-1 0-0 0, Ryley Kehr 1-3 0-0 2, Mckenzie Gunter 0-0 0-0 0, Peyton Kehr 2-5 1-2 5, Morgan Mason 0-1 0-0 0, Sydney Hovde 5-10 6-7 16. Totals 17-49 14-17 49.

3-pt FG:Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 4-16 (Francis 0-1, Wright 0-1, Thatcher 4-10, Dethman 0-1, Parker 0-1, Roy 0-2), Montana State University- 1-9 (Lorton 1-3, Sellin 0-1, Goldhahn 0-3, Kehr 0-1, Mason 0-1). Rebounds: Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 27 (Francis 8), Montana State University- 26 (Hovde 8). Fouls Rocky Mountain (Mont.) 16, Montana State University- 15. Fouled out: Wright.

Western 70, Skylights 58

Montana Western 12 20 29 9 - 70

MSU-Northern 18 11 14 15 - 58

MW - Savanna Bignell 1-5 0-0 2, Shannon Worster 3-7 3-3 9, Paige Holmes 3-8 1-2 8, Mesa King 1-7 3-4 5, Sydney Sheridan 1-4 0-0 3, Lilly Gopher 0-1 0-0 0, Shainy Mack 4-5 1-2 11, Gracey Meyer 7-11 3-4 17, Natali Denning 0-0 0-0 0, Brynley Fitzgerald 5-7 4-5 15. Totals 25-55 15-20 70.

MSU-N - Kenya Lorton 3-11 3-4 9, Reilly Walsh 1-7 0-2 2, Petra Sellin 1-3 0-0 2, Allix Goldhahn 6-10 3-5 20, Jada Nicholson 0-0 0-0 0, Ryley Kehr 2-2 0-0 5, Peyton Kehr 3-12 0-0 7, Morgan Mason 3-3 1-2 7, Sydney Hovde 2-5 2-2 6. Totals 21-53 9-15 58.

3-pt FG:Montana Western 5-17 (Bignell 0-2, Worster 0-1, Holmes 1-3, King 0-1, Sheridan 1-3, Gopher 0-1, Mack 2-3, Fitzgerald 1-3), Montana State University- 7-21 (Lorton 0-3, Walsh 0-4, Sellin 0-2, Goldhahn 5-7, Kehr 1-1, Kehr 1-4). Rebounds: Montana Western 30 (Holmes 12), Montana State University- 33 (Hovde 9). Fouls Montana Western 14, Montana State University- 15. Fouled out: none.

 

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