MSUB faces Concordia

Jeanann Lemelin of Montana State Billings drives between Concordia defenders in the second quarter at Alterowitz Gym on Thursday.

BILLINGS — Rhett Baerlocher said Saint Martin’s is most dangerous when the Saints are having fun.

And Saint Martin’s had its share of highlights on Thursday night.

“There were some moments in the first half that were fun … and some that were not so fun,” the Missoula Hellgate graduate and Saint Martin's senior forward said with a smile.

The Saints, ranked No. 23 nationally, overcame an early 18-point deficit to hold off Montana State Billings 76-74 at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

The GNAC leaders (16-2, 9-1) survived some frantic final minutes as the Yellowjackets (9-8, 4-5) tried to rally. MSUB scored five points in the final 14.3 seconds but a last-second shot attempt fell short.

“I was proud of the way we came back and put pressure on them at the end and we had a chance to win it,” said Yellowjacket coach Mick Durham.

The MSUB women (7-8, 3-6) struggled from long range — making just 5 of 32 3-point attempts — in allowing Concordia to rally for a 65-59 victory.

The Yellowjacket teams have another doubleheader Saturday with the men playing Seattle Pacific at 5:15 p.m., followed by the women taking on Western Oregon at 7:30 p.m.

Saints 76, MSUB men 74

The Yellowjackets came out strong, fueled early by Zharon Richmond’s 10 points and led 33-15 in the first half. The Saints put together a 15-0 run late and trailed 40-36 at halftime.

“We didn’t come out with the right intensity,” said Baerlocher, one of five senior starters for Saint Martin’s. “You’ve got to be ready. The GNAC is so tough, there is an unbelievable amount of talent in this league.

“It was just believing in each other. We started hitting the open man, started catching the ball ready to score and attack. We trusted each other to get back into it.”

Luke Chavez, the GNAC Preseason MVP pick, finished with a game-high 25 points, including five 3-pointers. EJ Boyce added 17, while Chandler Redix had 16.

Baerlocher, who graduated from Hellgate in 2015, finished with nine points, seven rebounds and two assists. His third 3-pointer gave Saint Martin’s a 69-62 lead with 3:35 remaining in the game.

It was one of 13 Saints’ 3-pointers.

“They feed off those 3’s,” Durham said. “And we had a tough lull in the second half where we didn’t score.”

MSUB led by 10, 58-48 midway in the second half.

Tyler Green and Brendan Howard each had 17 points for the Yellowjackets. Green had 14 of MSUB’s first 16 points in the second half. Richmond finished with 15 and Zack Rollins 10.

“It’s hard to get better each week because this league is so tough,” said Durham. “But no question we’re making strides defensively.”

Concordia 65, MSUB women 59

All the Yellowjackets needed were three more.

Three more 3-pointers would have improved their long-range shooting percent to 25 percent and more importantly, flip the outcome. 

But making just 15.6 percent was not enough.

The misses allowed the Cavaliers (9-9, 4-6) to overcome an early seven-point deficit for its second straight win.

MSUB led 28-24 at halftime but were just 1 of 17 (5.6 percent) from 3-point range.

“We were up by four (28-24) at halftime, but I felt it should have been a lot more,” said Yellowjacket coach Kevin Woodin. “In the first half, we got all the shots we wanted. In the third quarter, Concordia tightened up their defense and started to believe in themselves. When the 3-pointer isn’t working, we’ve got to find other ways to score points.”

Hannah Collins led MSUB with 21 points, while Taryn Shelley had 16 points, nine rebounds and five blocked shots. Vanessa Stavish had 12 points.

Concordia outscored the Yellowjackets 18-7 late in the third quarter to take the lead for good.

Olivia Vezaldenos led all scorers with 27 points, including five 3-pointers. She was also 10 for 10 from the free throw line. Keesha Sarman added a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Erin Higbie had 10 points.

Email Joe Kusek at joe.kusek@406mtsports.com or follow him on Twitter at @GazSportsJoe

Sports writer at the Billings Gazette

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