BUTTE — Buoyed by a strong performance from its forwards and timely shooting from its guards, the No. 22 Rocky women’s basketball team was able to get past Montana Tech 72-55.
Not helping matters for Montana Tech was the loss of returning All-American Shay Potter. Oredigger head coach Carly Sanon said she had left both the team and school after Christmas and will not return to Tech.
Tied at halftime, the Battlin’ Bears opened the second half on a 22-5 run to take control of the game. The Orediggers simply had no answer for Rocky's post players — especially Markaela Francis and Justyn Juhl who combined for 30 points. Francis had a game-high 17.
“The way we want to play, we stress that we want paint touches, open 3s and cutters,” Rocky Mountain head coach Wes Keller said. “We get those three things, we’re probably going to get a great shot.
“I thought we came out good in the first quarter, took care of the ball, and then the second quarter we were turning that thing over like it was our job.”
While the second half certainly was a struggle for the Orediggers, the second period was one of the best Tech’s had in Frontier play this season. The Orediggers closed the gap in the second quarter, finally tying the game on a Sharleo Graham-Bernisto 16-footer with under two minutes left in the half. Rocky’s Antuanisha Wright and Dani Urick traded 3-pointers to end the period and the teams went into halftime tied.
Turnovers and sloppy play helped get the Orediggers back in the game and Urick was the catalyst. The freshman finished with 11 points (nine of which came in the first half) on nine in one of the best performances of her college career. She also added five steals, an assist and a rebound.
“She was injured a bit, a little sick during that first semester so she’s getting her legs back,” Sanon said. “She’s a great player and the more experience she gets … she’s going to play even better.”
In the third quarter, however, Rocky’s defensive intensity was turned up a notch. The Battlin’ Bears held the Orediggers to just 2-of-14 shooting in the period and 0-of-3 from behind the arc. Rocky also forced four turnovers during the stretch and constantly got their hands in passing lanes.
Rocky ended with 10 steals on the day with Alecia Chamberlin notching six of them.
Tech was basically able to play Rocky to a stalemate as the game winded down, but the third-quarter run simply was too much to handle. The size difference was noticeable as the game wore on, as was the discrepancy in 3-point shooting.
The Battlin’ Bears were ruthlessly efficient from outside, hitting 9-of-23 shots from behind the arc. Wright was especially deadly, scoring 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting from 3-point range.
Mollie Peoples had a team-high 13 points for the Orediggers. Brooke Jones had 15 for the Battlin’ Bears. Tech drops to 10-5 (0-4 Frontier) on the year, while Rocky is 12-4 (3-1).
“We had two quarters where we didn’t score,” Sanon said. “You take those away and we’re in pretty good shape. Are we better than we were when we played last week against Carroll? Yes.
“We’re just going to get better.”