MISSOULA — Tears welled up in Jace Henderson's eyes as she described Thursday's overtime odyssey.

All the cards seemed to be stacked against her Montana women's basketball team. Portland State invaded Dahlberg Arena with decided edges in size, experience and depth, not to mention the Vikings' 21 wins — the most of any team in the Big Sky Conference.

Yet Montana tipped the scale in its favor with good old-fashioned grit and determination. Henderson led the way, piling up 25 points and 18 rebounds in an inspiring 73-70 win in front of a kinetic crowd of 2,837 fans.

"We were inspired, we were gritty — that's a great basketball team and they've got some great wins, so we really had to believe 100 percent and we brought so much heart tonight," said Henderson, whose team snapped a four-game losing streak.

"We've been going through a lot. We've had a lot of girls with injuries. We play a lot of minutes. It's hard to battle through that stuff. But I love the way we respond. I'm really proud."

Of all the statistics the stood out, the minutes played by four of Montana's starters may have been most amazing. Lady Griz point guard McKenzie Johnston played the entire game. Henderson had just two minutes of rest and Emma Stockholm and Sammy Fatkin just four.

It probably hurt the Lady Griz in overtime when they missed four of their first six free throw attempts. But they found a way, holding onto a lead throughout after Henderson and Johnston hit critical inside buckets to set the tone.

"We talked a lot about how we've got to play with more urgency and focus," Montana coach Shannon Schweyen said. "We've had a lot of mistakes that have been costing us in games.

"I loved our zone (defense) tonight. I thought we just clicked and we were working together and playing together. That's what we need to do to be a great team."

Schweyen opted for zone almost the entire game, which no doubt helped her team conserve energy. Then on offense, the Lady Griz did a much better job against Portland State's zone than they did in losing to the Vikings in Portland, Oregon, in January.

"I have to give credit to (assistant) Coach (Mike) Petrino," Schweyen said. "He came up with that little scheme Idaho State had ran. He thought we should take a look at it.

"We basically had one (practice) to work on it and the ladies did a nice job against it. It's no secret, everybody tries to attack behind that (PSU) zone a little bit. I thought we had great passes and teamwork."

The game was a test of wills. Portland State (13-6 conference) spotted the Lady Griz (13-15, 8-11) a 15-point lead early in the second quarter. Then the Vikings rallied behind 15 points by Kylie Jimenez and 12 by 6-foot-4 forward Courtney West.

Portland State built a 56-51 lead with just under seven minutes left in regulation. But Montana was not to be denied, using 3-pointers by Stockholm and super-sub Jordyn Schweyen and a 3-point play by Henderson to battle back.

Jordyn Schweyen finished with nine points on three 3-balls and played almost twice as many minutes as she ever had before in a college game (34).

"She's been playing real good defense for us and banging threes," coach Schweyen said of her daughter, a Missoula Sentinel grad. "I feel like she has a good feel in the zone."

Montana locked up the No. 7 seed for the Big Sky tournament.

The Lady Griz will play their Big Sky tourney opener on Monday at 5:30 p.m. in Boise, Idaho. But first, the team will play its final home game on Saturday at 2 p.m. against Sacramento State.

Bill Speltz is the Deputy Sports Editor of the Missoulian. Email him at bill.speltz@missoulian.com or bill.speltz@406mtsports.com.

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