Lady Griz survive upset bid

The Lady Griz survived Rocky Mountain’s upset bid on Monday night, winning 64-56 at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula. (Montana Sports Information)

By Montana Sports Information

Taylor Goligoski’s scoring kept Montana close until Madi Schoening’s hustle plays in the final minute allowed the Lady Griz to survive Rocky Mountain’s upset bid on Monday night, winning 64-56 at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.

Goligoski scored 18 of her game-high 22 points in the second half, and Montana (3-6) rallied back from a pair of six-point deficits early in the fourth quarter against a team that lost by 22 points at home to Montana-Western in its most recent game.

With the Lady Griz clinging to a one-point lead going into the game’s final minute, Schoening chased down her own miss, and her put-back with 56 seconds left put Montana ahead 60-56.

Her block of a Rocky Mountain 3-point attempt seconds later helped Montana snap a four-game losing streak.

“We struggled scoring tonight. Thank god Taylor came to life and got us going a little bit,” said coach Shannon Schweyen.

“We made some big hustle plays at the end, got some key rebounds and finally got some stops in the zone and were able to come out on the positive end of it.”

Nothing came easy for Montana on Monday, just as nothing has come easily all season. When the Lady Griz played man defense, the Bears scored at will. When Montana went zone, Rocky Mountain put everyone on the arc and rained down nine 3-pointers.

The Lady Griz led 11-7 after the first quarter, but the Bears shot 50 percent from 3-point range in the second and third quarters to outscore Montana 35-28 and take a surprising 42-39 lead into the fourth.

“We tried some man, and they put on a clinic for about a five-minute stretch, so we went back to zone,” Schweyen said. “At least we weren’t giving up layups.

“They were getting us really spread out. They ended up going five out on us a lot, and that’s hard to guard (in a 2-3 zone). They kind of got it going and made a lot of threes. We allowed them to start feeling it a little bit, which is our fault.”

That Rocky Mountain might pull out its first-ever win over Montana started to feel more and more realistic early in the fourth quarter.

Hailee Farstveet connected on a 3-pointer on the first possession of the quarter to make it 45-39, and she hit a jumper with 8:10 to play that made it 47-41.

A freshman trio — Goligoski and Schoening, plus McKenzie Johnston — answered with baskets on three straight possessions to get Montana, and the crowd, back into the game.

Schoening scored in the paint, Johnston turned a steal out top into a breakout layup, and Goligoski connected on one of her six second-half field goals to even the score at 47.

Neither team would lead by more than two until Goligoski and Johnston scored on back-to-back possessions to give Montana a 56-53 lead.

It would be short-lived. Jayde LeFevre hit a 3-pointer on the very next possession, with 2:38 left, to make it 56-56. After a Montana miss, LeFevre had another look at a three, but it was off the mark.

Then it was time for Jace Henderson to make the play of her Lady Griz career.

Her step-through basket made it 58-56 with 1:41 left and would turn out to be the game-winning points, because Rocky Mountain was done scoring.

Mikayla Jones missed a three at the other end, and Schoening’s put-back with 56 seconds remaining gave Montana its first two-possession lead since midway through the third quarter.

“Credit Rocky. They played tough. Fortunately we were able to get a couple of stops,” said Schweyen. “We did a much better job getting into their shots in the second half.”

Henderson finished with a career-high 10 points on 5-of-7 shooting in 16 minutes off the bench. Schoening was a missed free throw in the final minute away from a double-double. She had nine points and 10 boards.

“That was probably one of Jace’s better games. I was proud of her,” said Schweyen, whose team was plus-eight on the boards and gave up just six offensive rebounds.

“Madi cleaned up in the zone. Every time I looked up, it seemed she was flying through and grabbing a board. And she got some big ones late.”

While Montana generated just enough offense to win on Monday, Sunday’s opponent — Wyoming at 2 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena — will be a different level of challenge.

Against a common opponent in Cal State Fullerton, Montana lost 72-56. Wyoming throttled the Titans 61-26. Twenty-six is not a misprint.

The Lady Griz were on their way to another 30-something-percent shooting game on Monday until an 8-for-13 fourth quarter put them at 43.4 percent for the game, a season high.

“I thought we got plenty of good shots tonight,” said Schweyen. “They just didn’t go down. It was hard trying to find a hot hand.”

Keisha Engelhardt led Rocky Mountain with 15 points. Farstveet added 14, plus four rebounds, four assists and two blocks.