GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A rally to end the third quarter brought Lady Argo basketball within one point of Carroll College, but an eight minute field goal drought to start the fourth quarter negated all of that progress as UGF lost to the Fighting Saints 55-43.
Sluggish offense defined the first quarter, as it did the game as a whole, with seven and a half minutes of play passing before either team made it to 10 total points. The first team to that plateau was the Fighting Saints with a 10-5 lead. There wasn’t much more scoring after that either and the first period of played ended with Carroll leading 13-7.
After almost two minutes of scoreless basketball to start the following period, UGF’s junior guard Stephanie McDonagh hit her second 3-point shot of the night to pull the Lady Argos within 3 points. A bucket from senior center Whitney George pulled UGF within one but Carroll answered with a 12-2 run that brought the margin to 11.
The sequence of pulling within one only to miss a chance for the lead at the hands of a crippling Carroll run would repeat itself for the Lady Argos later in the contest. In the meantime, UGF finished the second half with 4 straight points to go into the break, down 25-18.
Despite the offensive woes of shooting 32 percent and turning the ball over 10 times in the first half, the UGF defense kept the team in the game. On the defensive end of the floor, UGF held the Saints to a shooting percentage of 37, forced the Saints into 9 turnovers, and shut down the Saint’s leading scorer, Cassidy Hashley. When the two teams played back on January 6, Hashley took it to the Lady Argos, scoring 31 points and pulling down 13 rebounds. This time, she finished the first half with 4 points and 2 boards.
Through the first eight minutes of the third quarter the Carroll lead fluctuated between as few as 3 and as many as 9 points. With two minutes remaining the score was 36-28 saints, but then Lady Argos made a big push to end the quarter.
The substitution of junior Kallee Wilson off the bench and on to the floor injected energy into the UGF lineup, and a total team effort led the Lady Argos on a 7-0 run. The final score of that was a baseline jumper from junior guard Molly Herron with eight seconds left in the period which pulled her team within one.
That’s when the fatal sequence repeated itself, only it was even more deadly this time. From the start of the fourth quarter to a 2:17 mark, the Lady Argos failed to make a shot from the floor. UGF’s only points during that span came from two made free throws by senior center Kalani Ulufale.
By the time freshman guard Jenna Randich hit a jumper from the left elbow with just over two minutes remaining in the game, the Fighting Saints held a 50-39 lead. Even had Randich’s score taken the lid off the basket for UGF, that margin still may have been too much to overcome, but as it turned out UGF would only score 4 more points before the final buzzer sounded.
The Lady Argos finished the game with a shooting percentage of 29.5 percent, including 27 percent in the second half. They also turned the ball over 16 times.
While the Saints shot better in the second half than the first, 43.8 percent, UGF’s defense still made a good showing. The Lady Argos forced 11 turnovers in the second half, and finished the game with 10 steals. While Hashley did better in the second half, 12 total points were still a vast improvement from the 31 she scored previously.
As usual, McDonagh led the team in scoring, finishing with 15 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. She was the only Lady Argo to score 10 or more points, though Randich came close with 9.
The loss brings the Lady Argo’s record to 12-9 (1-9) on the season. The game also marks the last time UGF will play in the McLaughlin Center until February 16. Until then the Lady Argos will go a four game road trip, starting with the University of Montana Western on February 2 at 5:30 p.m.