Lady Griz rally, earn road sweep

13 Dec 2021 | 08:25 | Basketball

The Montana women’s basketball team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit and finished off a road-trip sweep with a gutsy 65-63 victory over North Dakota State on Saturday night at Scheels Center in Fargo.

The Lady Griz (3-1) held the lead for less than 11 minutes but won it at the end when Carmen Gfeller, who led Montana with 18 points, hit a short turnaround jumper with 1.6 seconds remaining.

The play that won it was designed to go to Sammy Fatkin, who had nine points in the final period, 12 for the game. When that broke down, the ball went to Gfeller.

“I’m good with being Plan B, as long as I can get my stuff together and make it work and make sure we don’t have to go to a Plan C,” she said.

“It’s really exciting for this team to be able to take strides like this on the road. It wasn’t an easy game by any means. I’m really proud of our team for sticking together.”

For all the good vibes Montana took into the game after Thursday’s quality win at North Dakota and their fellow Grizzlies’ dominating win on the gridiron in Missoula earlier in the day, the Lady Griz were all out of sorts in the first half on Saturday night.

They turned the ball over 10 times in the opening 20 minutes, went 1 for 9 from the arc and headed to the locker room trailing 34-24, their lowest-scoring half of the season.

“They’d played five possessions of zone in three games up to that point, and they came out and zoned us pretty much the whole game. That kind of set us back a little bit,” said coach Brian Holsinger.

“You always want to be in attack mode, and right from the start they got us a little out of whack. But we hung in there with defense.”

The deficit was only 10 because Montana held North Dakota State to 32.4 percent shooting and because of the early play of Katerina Tsineke.

The junior didn’t make a field goal in Montana’s previous two games, against Gonzaga and North Dakota, and totaled just three points against the Bulldogs and Fighting Hawks after scoring 10 in the opener against Northwest Nazarene.

She had 11 at the break on Saturday, going 5 for 10 to keep her team within reach of the Bison.

“I’m super proud of her. She really struggled the last two games. Today she stepped up and was big for our team,” said Holsinger. “Really big.”

“It’s a team game. People have to step up and find ways to win. We’re learning how to win.”

Montana has been dynamite coming out of break this season, and Saturday was no different.

The Lady Griz scored the opening eight points of the second half to cut the margin to two and announce that they weren’t going anywhere, not with 20 minutes left to play.

“At halftime we talked about the things we needed to do to come back and win and were able to readjust,” said Holsinger. “Obviously, you saw the difference in the second half. We calmed down and started to execute.”

With Abby Anderson, who collected three fouls in the first half, limited to less than seven minutes in the second half before she fouled out, it was Kylie Frohlich and Dani Bartsch to the rescue.

They combined for 12 points off the bench.

“Kylie and Dani were excellent in the second half of setting the tone,” Holsinger said. “This is a team game, and when someone is struggling, someone else steps up.

“Kylie started the second half and she brought a calmness, a lot of poise to us we needed in the zone that was excellent.”

After falling behind by 10 again midway through the third quarter, 47-37, Montana held North Dakota State scoreless over the final 4:17 of the period.

The Lady Griz closed the quarter on an 8-0 run, with baskets from Bartsch, Gfeller, Gfeller again and Sophia Stiles to make it 47-45 going into the fourth.

When Gfeller opened the final period with a 3-pointer, one of just three Montana hit all game, the Lady Griz led 48-47, their first lead since the opening quarter.

The fourth quarter would have four ties, seven lead changes.

North Dakota State took a 59-56 lead with just over three minutes to go, but Fatkin, as part of her big finish after being held to three points on 1-of-6 shooting through three quarters, scored five points in less than a minute to put Montana up 61-59.

NDSU would tie at 61-61 with two free throws with 1:04 left.

After both teams traded misses, Montana got the ball back with 30.5 seconds left. Holsinger drew up a play for Stiles, because that usually means something good will come from it.

“We wanted to set up something going to her right hand, because she is really tough to stop,” said Holsinger, who watched Stiles get to the basket, get fouled and hit two free throws with 8.8 seconds left.

“That’s what seniors do. She’s fantastic. She is a difference-maker for us.”

After North Dakota State called a timeout and advanced the ball to the frontcourt, it took the Bison less than three seconds to score, which turned out to be a blessing.

Montana took its own timeout with 6.0 seconds left, plenty of time for the Lady Griz to execute something that would win it, even if it was Plan B.

“Credit to them, they took (Sammy) away,” said Holsinger. “Carmen turned and went to work, which is what I wanted as the second option. I’m proud of our kids. They came through today.”

Just as they did on Thursday, handling a North Dakota team that put up 89 points in a four-point win over Montana State on Saturday afternoon in Grand Forks.

“I told them, 80 minutes. We didn’t come to get one, we came to get two,” said Holsinger. “I don’t care how it is. On the road, you face adversity, and we faced a ton today, way more than the other night.

“We had massive, massive foul trouble, and I thought our kids stayed poised. Good teams get through things on the road and find a way to get the job done. That’s what we did today. We took a step forward. They made it really tough, and we found a way to get it done.”

Gfeller (18), Fatkin (12), Tsineke (11) and Stiles (11) all finished in double figures.

Gfeller was 8 for 11 to up her season field goal percentage to .676. She also added 10 rebounds for her second double-double of the season.

Montana will head to Phoenix next week for the Grand Canyon Women’s Basketball Classic. The Lady Griz will play Houston Baptist on Friday, Nicholls State on Saturday.

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Lady Griz rally, earn road sweep

December 13th, 2021

The Montana women’s basketball team rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit and finished off a road-trip sweep with...