SHERIDAN, Wyo. — Lindsey Hein had been looking forward to her Montana-Wyoming All-Stars clash with Ally Fertig all week. And it was an intriguing matchup to say the least.
The 6-foot-6 Hein, of Forsyth, has signed to play at NCAA Division I Montana State. The 6-4 Fertig, of Douglas, is headed to play at D-I Wyoming. And both were keys to their teams’ efforts in what was a nip-and-tuck second half Friday at the Bruce Hoffman Golden Dome.
But it was Hein’s inside layup with 38 second left that gave the Montana team a lead it didn’t surrender in a 55-52 victory in the annual all-star series between the neighboring states. The win was the eighth in a row for Montana, and stretched its lead in the all-time series to 34-13.
“I think going into this everyone was talking about it and everyone knew about it,” Hein said. “This was the first time I’d played against her. I was really looking forward to it, because in high school in Montana you don’t really get to play against someone who’s 6-4 and that skilled.
“It was really fun, offensively and defensively.”
Hein’s basket was scored off an inbound pass from Scobey’s Gracee Lekvold following a jump ball. Big Timber’s Hailee Brandon made the defensive play of the game with a steal on Wyoming's previous possession to give the ball back to Montana with about a minute to go.
Fertig, a two-time Gatorade player of the year and three-time state champion, had a chance to put Wyoming back in front but missed two bonus free throws with 23 seconds left. Lekvold then made good on two attempts from the stripe with nine seconds left, and when Wyoming’s final possession came up empty Montana had held on.
The Treasure State saw an 11-point lead evaporate as Wyoming embarked on a 23-8 second-half scoring run, capped by consecutive baskets by Gillette Thunder Basin’s Gabby Drube, which gave the Wyoming stars a 52-48 lead with 2:37 remaining.
But Montana closed the game by scoring the final seven points.
“Our mindset was we weren’t going to lose,” Hein said. “We knew if we finished when it mattered we were going to win, and that’s kind of what happened.”
Hein finished with 13 points. Fort Benton’s Aspen Giese had a team-high 15, 13 of which she scored in the third quarter. Giese, who’s headed to Montana State Billings, hit three consecutive 3-point shots that put her team up by eight in that frame.
Lekvold, a Rocky Mountain College signee, scored 12 points for the Montana team.
Wyoming’s second half run was sparked by Drube as well as Fertig, who had two separate offensive rebound and put-back baskets, the second of which resulted in a three-point play. Douglas teammates Kam Townsend and Joslin Igo also scored important points during that stretch.
Sheridan High coach Ryan Sullivan, a Sidney native and the coach of the Wyoming stars, said his team’s turnaround was the result of defensive pressure in the full court — and a lot of Drube.
“Gabby Drube got cooking. She flies around and she’s such a good athlete,” Sullivan said. “Going against Gabby Drube in the 4A this year was such a mess, and it’s so fun to actually get her on your squad. She’s an athlete that will go compete with people.”
Drube finished with 13 points. Fertig had a game-high 16, though Hein more than held her own on the defensive end. Fertig shot 15 free throws, making eight.
Wyoming will try again to end its streak in this series when the teams meet again Saturday at Lockwood High School in Billings. Montana wants to keep the status quo.
“We take pride in competing against Montana, for sure,” Sullivan said. “I know that it’s lopsided, and we’ve discussed that. It’s something that was hovering over our practice the last few days. It was like, ‘Let’s just go compete with them.’ I really am pleased with our second half. I think we can ride a lot of things from that second half into our game in Billings.”
NOTES: The series resumes Saturday at Lockwood High School in Billings. The girls game starts at 5:30 p.m. with the boys following at 7:30. Tickets are $10 for adults and $5 students. There is no limit on spectator attendance. … The all-star series is presented by St. Vincent Healthcare and Universal Awards.