The Montana Tech women’s basketball team handed Montana Western its first loss of the season at the start of the new year.
The No. 25 Bulldogs had a second chance at the Orediggers on Thursday night, and routed the hosts, 66-56, in the HPER Complex.
It was Montana Western’s (6-3, 17-3) third win in a row.
“I didn’t like the first quarter very much,” coach Lindsay Woolley said. “Neither team could really stop one another. We were just trying to get through and make stops. … When we switched to zone, I think that made a big difference and slowed them down a little bit.”
Western senior Aniese Palmore opened the fourth quarter on a 6-0 run. Her scoring frenzy built the Bulldogs' lead to 12 points.
During the closing two and a half minutes of play, the ‘Diggers drew five fouls. Palmore converted three of her five trips to the free-throw line and knocked in four of her buckets in the period.
Tech had nine turnovers in the final quarter.
‘Diggers (4-6, 10-11) coach Carly Sanon said her team didn’t move the ball well.
“We didn’t get the ball moving or make them guard us,” Sannon said. “We turned the ball over 24 times tonight, and that was the big thing tonight. We went to the free-throw line zero times in the second half. Some of it was because we turned over the ball, or we weren’t strong with the ball. We just didn’t get the looks we needed tonight.”
Missing from the ‘Diggers lineup was senior point guard and Butte High grad Hattie Thatcher, who was injured in a game last week at MSU-Northern. She was on the sidelines with crutches on Thursday.
The Bulldogs got hot to open the second half. After Tech's opening basket, Western went on an 8-0 run to build its lead up to 40-33 with five minutes remaining in the quarter.
Tech broke its shooting dry spell with back-to-back 3-pointers, and eventually pulled within two as junior Monica Lanndeck drove through the paint for a basket. But the Bulldogs ended the third quarter with a 47-43 advantage.
Western was led by senior Kaye Bignell's 23 points and seven rebounds. Palmore, who was limited to six points in the first half, ended the game with 16 and led the team with eight boards. Savanna Bignell chipped in 15 points off the bench.
After a slow start in the opening minute of play, senior Martha Dembek got Tech on the board, and senior Rachel Farris followed with two jumpers. The Bulldogs' first bucket came on a trey from Palmore.
Tech began to build an early lead as Dembek pushed the hosts' advantage to 14-9.
But then Kaye Bignell went to work, scoring eight in the back half of the quarter. The spurt cut the ‘Diggers' lead to just one point at the end of one.
In the second quarter, Western quickly tied the game up for the first time with a jumper from Bignell, before Tech freshman center Shay Porter put the hosts back ahead.
The Bulldogs tied the game up again on a Savanna Bignell trey. This time, the Bulldogs pulled away as she followed it with a pair of free throws. Tech added a pair of late free throws, but the Bulldogs led by two at the end of the first half.
Tech was led by redshirt sophomore Kourtney Coverdell's 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Dembek chipped in 12 points, and Farris led the 'Diggers with eight boards.
Tech next hosts Rocky Mountain College at 5:30 p.m. Saturday. Western travels to face No. 2 Lewis-Clark State at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
No. 9 Western 66, Tech 61
Montana Western snuck away with a win over hosting rival Montana Tech.
Bulldogs (18-3, 8-1) coach Steve Keller said he was happy to get a road win.
“We just had to find a way to win,” Keller said. “We got off to a good lead and won the first five minutes. We always talk about winning the first five minutes. Give them credit, they didn’t quit.”
With 11 minutes left in the second half, the Orediggers (7-14, 1-9) cut the Bulldogs' lead to 45-44 on a 3-pointer from freshman Dylan Pannabecker. But the Bulldogs responded and were able to maintain the advantage.
Tech stuck within six points of Western for the rest of the game. After going 0 for 11 on 3-pointers in the first half, the Diggers were 6 for 12 from deep in the second half.
Both teams finished shooting 41 percent from the field.
Tech never found enough momentum to overtake the Bulldogs.
“First halves have been a big issue for us all year long,” Tech coach Adam Hiatt said. “We’ve been preaching it all week: they’re a fast starting team. We’re not particularly fast starting for whatever reasons. I’ve got to find a way to get us off to a better start because we struggle offensively sometimes.”
Even though Montana Western’s leading scorer senior Shyke Smalls was limited to five points, other players stepped up. Junior Dom Robinson dropped 20 points and had a team high six assists. Junior 6-foot-7 forward Marcus Payne chipped in 16 points and grabbed eight boards.
In the first half, the Bulldogs swiftly jumped out to a 7-0 lead. Montana Tech didn’t get on the board until Flemming Okeke scored off an offensive rebound. Montana Western built up a 10 point lead four minutes into the opening half.
After Payne scored on a jumper, it took Montana Western almost eight minutes to score another field goal. Payne and Smalls both went to the line and went 2-for-2. During this time, Tech scored 12 points.
But the No. 9 Bulldogs didn’t waver. Montana Western gained control of the game and took a 35-25 lead at the end of the half.
Montana Tech was led by junior Chris O’Neil who had 18 points and four assists. Sophomore Lukas Vinning had seven points and grabbed 10 boards.
The Diggers next game is 7:30 p.m. Saturday at home against Rocky Mountain College. Montana Western travels to Idaho to face Lewis-Clark State College at 8:30 p.m.