Lights pick up a pair of wins at the Cactus Classic in Phoenix


Last updated 12/21/2022 at 8:27am

The Cactus Classic was a key three-game stretch for the Montana State University-Northern Lights, as they took on three GSAC teams in preparation or the upcoming Frontier Conference basketball season.

The tournament in Phoenix started for the Lights with a close loss to Hope International last Saturday. The Lights lost to the Royals 68-63. Both teams were on fire in the first half, as Bushnell shot 53 percent from the field and 83 percent from the three point-line. Northern shot 45 percent from the field and 37 percent from the three. Northern was up by one going into halftime (43-42). The Lights pulled the lead to seven a couple times during the second half. Bushnell hit a couple shots to cut the lead to one, but Northern kept the lead till the lead.

The Lights were led by Jesse Keltner just shy of a double-double with 25 points and nine rebounds C.J. Nelson added 15 points going 50 percent from the field. Tanner McCliment-Call added 14 points and four assists. Dae'Kwon Watson added 11 points.

The Lights bounced right back from the loss to Hope by blowing out Vanguard Monday morning. Northern beat Vanguard University 73-51 Monday in Arizona. The first half was a tight race. The Lights went up nine, but the Lions didn't go away. The Lions went on a 15-3 to end the half going up into half time 25-23. The Lights second half shooting took over the game going 52 percent from the three.

The Lights were led by Jesse Keltner just shy of a double-double with 16 points and eight rebounds. Dae'Kwon Watson added 14 points and five assists. Zackry Martinez went 5-10 with 12 points and five assists. C.J. Nelson and Tanner McCliment-Call added 11 points each.

The Lights finished off the road trip with a big win over The Master’s Tuesday afternoon. The Lights won 80-71 in Arizona. The Lights had an incredible first half taking the lead 47-32. They shot 51 percent from the field and 56 percent from the three-point line. The Masters University shot 40 percent from the field and 27 percent from the three in the first half. The Masters’ Starr hit a three to tie the game 58-58 with 9:24 left on the clock. The Lights hit shots down the stretch to take the game. The Lights were led by C.J. Nelson and Myles Dalton with 17 each. Dalton went 6-6 from the field. Dae’Kwon Watson added 16 points going 4-5 from the three-point line. Anthony Braggs Jr. added 10 points.

“I am just extremely proud of the entire group. They played nothing short of connected and together all three games. Even in our first tough close loss to Hope in the first one,” MSU-N head coach Shawn Huse said. “Those three teams are well-coached, perennial NAIA powers year in and year out. We stood up defensively and found and capitalized on opportunities as a team offensively. Our toughness and character showed and we just need to build off the experiences gained from this trip. The prep work and attention to detail paid off. And that mentality is what we need to use and take with us for conference play after the break.”

After going 2-1 in Phoenix, the Lights enter Christmas break at 10-3. Northern hosts Keyano and St. Mary’s next weekend in the Armory Gymnasium.


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