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Survive and advance: Lights play LC State in semis tonight

Northern men one win away from playing for the Frontier title

 

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's David Harris, right, had a huge game for the Lights in the first round of the Frontier Conference playoffs Tuesday night at Montana Tech. Now Harris and the Lights will take their shot at Lewis-Clark State in tonight's semifinals. The game in Lewiston, Idaho, tips off at 7.

The Montana State University-Northern Lights had three cracks at the Lewis-Clark State Warriors in their final season in the Frontier Conference, including twice in Lewiston, Idaho. Now, Northern gets one last chance to beat the Warriors before they depart the conference.

Thanks to Tuesday night's win at fourth-seeded Montana Tech, the fifth-seeded Lights (20-11) will face the top-seeded Warriors in the Frontier semifinals tonight at LC State. Northern was 0-3 against the Warriors during the regular season, so MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse is hoping the fourth time is the charm.

"LC has certainly had a great year," Huse said. "Their sets and size have posed defensive execution and matchup challenges for the rest of the league all season. We have to find a way to combat that if we are going to have success."

The Warriors, currently ranked No. 7 in the NAIA have had a great year. They were ranked as high as No. 3 in the country at one point this season, they rattled off 13 straight Frontier wins to bring a 27-3 record into tonight's game. And that is all after going to the NAIA Final Four last year.

LC has been tough on the Lights too. The Warriors beat the Lights 83-73 and 56-46 in January, then beat them 64-57 back on Feb. 15 in Lewiston. LC's talent and depth was a factor in all three of those games too. Star point guard Damek Mitchell averages 13 points and seven assists per game, while forwards Travis Yenor and Trystan Bradley each average 13 points per night. Josiah Westbrook and Bailey Hodges each average another 10 points as well for an LCSC team that scores 86 points per game, while allowing just 62.

But, as good as the Warriors have been this season, in all three of their meetings, the Lights have held leads, and have also played as good a defense against the Warriors as anyone in the Frontier. Yet, it just comes down to shooting, and Northern, which has won 9 of its last 11 games, has been shooting the ball as well as many team in the Frontier at the start of the playoffs.

Offensively, the Lights have been getting the usual production from guards Adam Huse and Mascio McCadney, while Kavon Bey (injured) finished the regular season averaging 14 points and seven rebounds per game. But, MSU-N's bench has also stepped up huge, including at Tech on Tuesday night when David Harris poured in 27 points to go with 10 rebounds, while Jesse Keltner added 10 points and eight boards in a win that kept the Lights' season alive.

And staying alive is what the Lights are trying to do. Northern has been ranked in the Top 25 earlier this season, and currently, the Lights are receiving votes in the NAIA Coaches Poll. And while a win over LC State would be a huge coup for the Lights, and vault them into Monday night's championship game, Northern also believes it must win the Frontier title to reach the NAIA tourney. And, in order to have a chance at the Frontier title, the Lights must knock off the Warriors tonight on the road.

The guys are excited for the battle and focused on doing everything possible to keep our playoff run alive.

"The guys are excited for the battle and focused on doing everything possible to keep our playoff run alive," Huse said.

Tonight's game between the Lights and LC State tips at 7 in the Activity Center at LC State. The winner advances to Monday night's championship game to take on either second-seeded Carroll College or third-seeded Providence.

 

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