A trying five-game road odyssey came to a cruel end for the Montana women's basketball team Saturday.
Despite holding a lead most of the way, the Lady Griz went cold when it mattered most in dropping a 67-64 decision to Eastern Washington at Reese Gym in Cheney, Washington. The loss was Montana's third in a row, dropping the team to 10-11 overall, 5-7 in Big Sky Conference play.
"It's unfortunate because I felt like we could have gotten out of here with a win today," UM coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio after her team went 1-4 on its longest road stint of the season.
"... We shot the ball OK from the field. But 16 for 23 from the line, on the road you have to make those. And those boards. They get 15 O-boards. I feel like that's the big difference in the game. They got a couple huge ones down the stretch."
Just like last weekend at Montana State, the Lady Griz enjoyed an impressive start in building a 13-0 lead. The Eagles (6-15, 5-7) rallied in the second quarter and it was nip-and-tuck the entire second half.
Montana went up 62-61 on a pair of Sammy Fatkin free throws with 1:55 left. From there the teams traded baskets before Violet Kapri Morrow hit a layup to put the Eagles on top 65-64 with 32 ticks left.
Montana squandered an opportunity to go back on top with 8 seconds left when Gabi Harrington missed a layup. Brittany Klaman grabbed the defensive rebound for the hosts, teammate Alissa Sealby hit a pair of free throws at :06 and Harrington's 3-point shot attempt at the buzzer bounced off the back iron and fell to the floor.
"We got lots of little ones down in the paint," noted Schweyen, whose team held a 38-28 edge in points in the paint. "You take those and then hope maybe you can crash boards.
"Gabi (Harrington) had a real good look to tie it. That was about as good a look as you're going to get. Unfortunately it didn't go our way down the stretch."
Morrow, a senior guard from Tacoma, Washington, led all scorers with 25 points behind 10-for-16 shooting from the field. Harrington paced the Lady Griz with 17 points and nine rebounds, followed by Jace Henderson with 15 points and nine boards and McKenzie Johnston with 12 points and five assists.
"The girls played hard, they battled," said Schweyen, whose team hit just 3 of 12 shot attempts in the fourth quarter. "A lot of them played a ton of minutes. I felt (Eastern) got too many catch-and-shoot threes and they made nine of them."
Saturday marked only the second time in nine tries that Eastern won at Reese Court. Montana's road record dipped to 3-8, with its only road wins coming against teams with losing records.
Schweyen noted that her squad has lost four capable guards to injury in Sophia Stiles, Taylor Goligoski, Madi Schoening and Katie Mayhue.
"We're getting to know who we are again and we have to stay positive," said the coach, whose team will play host to Weber State on Thursday night.