BUTTE — A week ago Friday, Montana Tech coach Adam Hiatt gave a little fist pump to himself after his Orediggers shocked nationally-ranked Carroll College.
On Friday night, Hiatt had both fists pumping as Tech walked off the floor following a win over Lewis-Clark State in the final seconds, 68-66.
Trailing by one with under 20 seconds to play, Chris O’Neill rose for a shot from the free-throw line, missed, and Tech immediately fouled the Warriors. Tenacious defense on that routine inbound caused a five-second violation, giving the Diggers possession back with seconds remaining on the clock.
The ball was inbounded to John Chapman, who drew Jake Miles’ defender, leaving the sophomore open. Miles dribbled once, pulled up from distance and put the dagger in the No. 19 Warriors.
“We were running a play to get John Chapman a shot because he was feeling it,” Miles said. “He came off and they sunk to him, I got the ball and I took one dribble, guy stepped back and I was like, alright, I’m going up with it.”
“I rose up and as soon it left my hand I knew: That’s in.”
Tech fouled the Warriors on their ensuing possession with a foul to give. Out of the inbound with three seconds to play, LC State’s final attempt was a scrum at the net, with both O’Neill and Taylor England swatting the ball away as time expired.
Starting center Trent Molesworth was out after injuring his ankle in Thursday’s loss to Montana Western. Where the Diggers lacked in size, they made up in contributions across the board. Ten players scored, led by 17 from Miles and 16 from Chapman.
“We felt like a night like this was going to come,” Hiatt said. “We were going to be in a situation late in a game to make a big play, and we were going to make that big play and we did tonight.”
Tech jumped out to an early 8-0 start Friday. At the half the Diggers lead 34-30, and the second half saw both sides make runs before trading the lead in the final minute.
With less than 30 seconds to play, LC State claimed its final lead of the night when Trea Thomas leaned into his defender looking for a foul, didn’t get the call but his junk shot went through, setting up the final moments of chaos before Miles’ hero ball went in.
“All the strange circumstances at the end of the game, they make that desperation heave underneath our big guy that switched out … boy, the urgency that our guys had,” Hiatt said. “And the execution late in the game of getting that five second count, taking the foul that we had to give -- they had no timeouts, we made them do something that hadn’t planned for.
“This is a big step forward for our program.”
If emotions were a currency, the wealth Hiatt and his team have earned over the past two weeks would be enough to buy a small island. Following the stunning win over Carroll, the Orediggers dropped close games to Rocky Mountain College and bitter rival Western.
“All year we’ve been in barn burners,” Miles said. “Through the whole time we’ve been confident because in the last three minutes it’s always a one possession game …. Even though these last couple games we dropped a couple, we were still very confident.”
“You’ve got to be able to play hard all the time and then see some accomplishment,” Hiatt said. “And when you see some accomplishment you get some confidence, and when you get some confidence, that’s when you start to believe.”