BILLINGS — And they meet again.
Less than a week after taking their game into overtime, the Rocky Mountain College and Montana Tech men’s basketball teams play again for much higher stakes at the Fortin Center on Wednesday night.
The 7 p.m. game is one of three first-round Frontier Conference tournament games.
The Battlin’ Bears (19-11) are the No. 3 seed while the Orediggers (16-14) are the sixth seed.
The other games have Montana Western (9-20) at Lewis-Clark State (24-6) and Providence (18-11) at Montana State-Northern (17-13).
The semifinals are schedule for Saturday with the championship game on Tuesday, March 5. The Frontier Conference ttournament champion receives an automatic berth in the NAIA Men’s Division I National Championship in Kansas City.
Rocky won two of three from Montana Tech this season, including last Thursday’s 84-80 overtime thriller in Butte. Craig Wilmore and Clayton Ladine each had 20 points for the Battlin’ Bears while Taylor England had a double-double of 22 points and a career-high 17 rebounds for the Orediggers.
“The greatest thing about this crew is we have a lot of kids who can step up on any given night,” said Rocky head coach Bill Dreikosen. “We’re pretty deep and we have great team chemistry.”
Ladine’s 20 points were also a career-high. The junior college transfer has seen expanded minutes in the second half the season and started 13 games. He leads Rocky in 3-pointers (52), assists (88) and steals (54).
“Clayton’s a player who is stepping up and getting more comfortable as the season goes on,” Dreikosen said. “He’s learning what it takes to play in the Frontier Conference night in and night out.”
Jared Samuelson, the Frontier Conference preseason player of the year, continues to lead Rocky with 18.9 points and 7.6 rebounds a game. He has scored in double figures in 29 and 30 games. His 566 points ranks No. 8 nationally and leads the Frontier Conference. Samuelson has scored 1,149 points in two seasons in Billings.
England is averaging 15.3 points and 7.8 rebounds a game for Montana Tech. Teammate Nick Fitts has made 51 3-pointers.
“It’s anybody’s game this time of year,” said Dreikosen. “Tech, they’re a team that is not going to let down. We’ve got to execute better offensively and we have to finish.
“We have to play well both halves. We’ve had a lot of good halves this year. But now we have to sustain both halves. We just have to do what we do best.”
NOTES: Due to Frontier Conference regulations, playoff ticket prices will be different from regular season games. Tickets for adults are $10, and $5 for seniors (60-plus), students (10-17) and those with a vaild college ID. Children 10 and under will be admitted free. No other discounts will be made available. Only Frontier Conference Lifetime passes and NAIA credentials will be accepted.