UMW News Bureau
The University of Montana Western women’s basketball team traveled to Butte, Mont. last night to take on the Montana Tech Orediggers in the first round of the Frontier Conference playoffs. The Bulldogs emerged victorious, 55-46.
The Orediggers had previously beaten the Bulldogs two out of the three times they faced before this playoff game, but the last time they played on Feb.21 in the Straugh Gymnasium in Dillon, Mont., the Bulldogs beat Montana Tech in a nail-biter, winning by two points on a buzzer beater.
On Tuesday, the Bulldogs played with intensity on both ends of the floor. They were suffocating on defense, patient on the offensive end, they ran in transition and made their free-throws.
Both teams came out strong in the first half, trading the lead back and forth before the Bulldogs eventually took a significant lead with about two minutes left to go in the half. Sammi Bignell came out on fire in the first half and hung 15 points on the Orediggers and sent the Bulldogs into halftime up by eight points. Montana Western got up by as many as nine in the second half, but Montana Tech fought back and got within three points with three minutes left. A big pull-up jumper by Jenna Banks put the Bulldogs back up by five followed by a huge layup by Brittney Leibenguth with only a minute left to play, which put the Bulldogs up by seven points. The Orediggers then had to foul, and the Bulldogs’ Jenna Banks and Alecia Wilson stepped to the line on two different occasions. Both drained their free throws to put the final score at 55-46 in favor of Montana Western.
“As we have done over the last three games, we had kids step up and make big shots late in the game,” head coach Linsday Woolley explained. “All year we have been talking about playing with pride and poise, and we put them together against Tech. We had contributions from a number of players. Brittney Leibenguth and Roxy Thurman hit big shots, Kaci Matthies was a monster on the boards and did a great job on Kelsey Dewitt. Jenna Banks continues to make clutch free throws. I am extremely happy for this group of kids and, in particular, these seniors. To get their first Frontier Conference playoff win against their rival has to be a rewarding feeling.”
Sammi Bignell had yet another huge night for the Bulldogs, leading all scorers with 20 points. Brittney Leibenguth added 13 points and five rerounds, while Roxy Thurman chipped in 10 points and a game-high four steals. Kaci Matthies ended the night with 10 rebounds while Alecia Wilson added five assists to the effort.
The Bulldogs will now face the number three team in the nation, the Westminster Griffins. Montana Western has lost both times in conference play to the Griffins this season. In December, the Bulldogs lost 35-73 in Salt Lake City, Utah., and on Feb. 9, Montana Western lost 28-45 here in Dillon, Mont.
The Bulldogs will head to Salt Lake City tomorrow, Thursday, Feb. 28 to get ready for the rematch with the Griffins. The game will take place on Friday, Feb. 28 at 7 p.m.