The new-look McLaughlin Center at the University of Providence. (TOM WYLIE/MTN Sports)

(Argo Athletics Media Release)

GREAT FALLS – A Murphy’s law first quarter was eventually overcome by another career night from Stephanie McDonagh and a breakout game from junior Tristan Murphy (no relation) in a 76-70 win for the University of Providence over San Diego Christian College.

The SDC Hawks couldn’t have played much better in the first 10 minutes. They made 73 percent of their shots from the floor and hit 4-7 from three including more than one that banked in. Meanwhile, the Lady Argos couldn’t have played much worse, turning it over 8 times and making just 3 shots including none from distance. That combination had the team behind 32-15 at the end of the period.

“When teams are banking in three that’s always a sign that things aren’t going to go well for you,” Head Coach Bill Himmelberg said. “Their kids played hard and made some good shots and we didn’t follow our defensive game plan. I was a little disappointed in that. We need to shore that up.”

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The only thing that was working for UP in that first quarter was free throws. McDonagh went 0-3 from the field in the period, but drew a lot of fouls and went 6-6 from the free-throw line while freshman post Parker Esary added 3-3 shooting from the charity stripe to account for 9 of team’s 15 points.

In the next three quarters UP had just 9 turnovers, shot almost 50 percent from the field and shot 33 percent from 3-point range. The Hawks, on the other hand, made as many field goals in the last 30 minutes (11) as they did in the first 10. They also had 12 of their 13 turnovers in quarters two through four and made just 4 more 3-point field goals.

The beginning of the second quarter looked much like the first. A three from the Hawks with 8 minutes left in the half, brought the lead to 22 points by the Lady Argos started to limit the turnovers and began to feed Esary.

Finding Esary in the post was the go-to play all quarter, and the Hawks never really had an answer. The freshman scored 13 of her 20 total points in the second quarter, shooting 5-7 with 4 offensive rebounds. Her efforts, along with 8 points from McDonagh, led UP on a 14-1 run to close that half and despite the disastrous start, the team trailed by just 3 points at the break.

It was the first time all year the Lady Argos ended the first half behind.

Despite UP’s charge to end the half, the Hawks didn’t give up the lead easily in the third quarter. San Diego Christian held a slim advantage for most of the period, but short jumper off the glass by McDonagh with 1:54 left gave UP its first lead of the night at 53-52.

“I think it was a good thing for our team to come into halftime down because we haven’t done that yet,” McDonagh said. “It shows that we can overcome adversity. I think it was a big moment for us, particularly because we’re so young.”

McDonagh scored 9 of the Lady Argo’s 15 points in the third quarter and the team entered the final 10 minutes with a 55-54 lead.

The last 10 minutes were tight the whole way. The Lady Argos led more often than not, but with Esary on the bench due to foul trouble, they could pull away. With 2:30 left on the clock, two free throws from the Hawks reclaimed the lead for San Diego Christian 68-67.

Answering back was freshman point guard Emilee Maldonado who hit a big three after having a tough shooting night. SDC tied it up with a minute to go, but McDonagh got to the free-throw line yet again predictably made both.

On the ensuing Hawk’s possession, San Diego Christian had the ball with just a few seconds extra on the shot clock to the game clock, but the team chose not to wait for the last shot. Instead, an SDC guard tried to post up UP senior Molly Herron in the right corner, but McDonagh slid to help and poked the ball loose. Junior post Tristan Murphy hit the floor and came away with the ball to essentially seal the game.

Maldonado and McDonagh each hit 2 free throws in the final 25 seconds as UP escaped with a 76-70 win.

Murphy finished with 10 points, 8 rebounds, and 2 steals, all of which was her best since joining the Lady Argos.

With Esary in foul trouble, Murphy, a highly-touted NCAA Division I transfer, had her breakout performance after slowly working herself back from an illness. She had season highs with 10 points, 8 rebounds, 2 blocks, and 23 minutes. She showcased toughness under the basket and a smooth jumper that was effective even on the borders of 2-point range.

While Murphy and Esary were a big part of the win, McDonagh was the star. The senior set a new career high in points for the second time in four games, scoring 35 points off of 10-17 shooting with 8 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. She found ways to drive the lane all night, either dropping in a layup or getting fouled or both. She went 13-14 from the free-throw line, another career high.

“We’ve been practicing those a lot,” McDonagh said of her free-throw shooting. “Those can make or break a game and they really helped us out tonight.”

UP’s record goes to 7-0 on the year with an exhibition game against Montana State University coming on Wednesday, November 15 at 7 p.m.