BILLINGS — Her work done, a smiling Brianna King jogged off the court with 30.6 seconds remaining in the game as the loud chant of “MVP, MVP,” filled Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark
The large crowd, heavily pro-Montana Western, would find no argument.
Led by King’s game-high 37 points, the Bulldogs used a flurry of first quarter 3-pointers to break away for an easy 75-59 victory over Oklahoma City for the NAIA Division I women’s basketball championship on Tuesday night.
It was the second consecutive 37-point game in as many nights for the senior guard from Spokane, Washington.
“She’s really good when the lights are really bright,” said Western head coach Lindsay Woolley of the NAIA player of the year.
King was selected the tournament MVP while teammate Britt Cooper earned the Hustle Award. Woolley was chosen the NAIA coach of the year.
The Bulldogs (30-4) become the first team from the Frontier Conference and Montana to win an NAIA Division I women’s title. Montana State-Northern (then Northern Montana) won the NAIA Division II championship in 1993. Rocky Mountain College won the men’s Division I title in 2009.
“Our players got a taste of it last year,” said Woolley whose team reached the semifinals in 2018. “They were so mature and played with poise with that many people in the building.
“I don’t know how I’m feeling right now. This is surreal. And it’s kind of cool to win it here in Billings 10 years after Rocky won the men’s title.”
The Stars, who won the 2017 title in the same building, finish 33-5.
It is also the second national championship for a Montana Western team. The Bulldogs’ wrestling program won the 1994 title.
“This was our goal at the start of the season,” said King after posing for team pictures and handing off her tourney MVP award to a teammate. “The key was our chemistry. We all cared for each other.
“This feels great.”
With the Stars defending King’s drives to the baskets, the Bulldogs rained six first quarter 3-pointers. King had three while Tori Anderson had two and Savanna Bignell the other.
“We had to give up something,” said OCU coach Bo Overton. “Give them credit. They executed well and made their shots when they had to.”
Western extended its lead to 47-29 by halftime.
Tori Anderson added 14 points for the Bulldogs while Cooper finished with nine points and seven rebounds.
King finished 15 of 22 from the field, including 6-of-13 on 3-pointers.
“It’s not fair,” said Overton of King’s game. “She’s so quick and shoots it so well. She’s just the whole package.”
After landing out of bounds after a fourth quarter drive, King offered herself a few claps of her hands.
“I got the and-one,” King said of the mini-celebration.
Montana Western led by as many as 23 in the fourth quarter.
Mallory Lockhart Oklahoma City with 11 points, while Abby Selzer added 10.
King, a two-time Frontier Conference player of the year, also had three rebounds, three assists, two steals and a blocked shot in the first quarter that she converted into an easy layup.
“Oh, that’s a tough question,” said King of preferring points or blocks. “I’ve got to say, that blocked shot felt really good.”