(Editor’s note: University of Providence athletics release)
DILLON – Perhaps the team’s best defensive performance of the season earned the (RV) University of Providence women’s basketball team its third straight win and third win over a ranked opponent, upsetting (10) University of Montana Western 53-39. UMW’s 39 points were the third lowest scored by a Lady Argo opponent, and the team’s 25 percent shooting was the second worst percentage shot against UP.
UP’s defense made an impact on the first possession, with freshman point guard Emilee Maldonado getting a steal off of Western, leading to a bucket from senior Stephanie McDonagh. The Bulldogs briefly held a 1 point lead in the first quarter but a three from sophomore Jenna Randich with under a minute left in the period gave UP a lead it would never give back.
One of the keys was UP’s ability to shut down one of the top scorers in the country, Western’s junior guard Brianna King. Lady Argo senior Molly Herron finished the game without a point but may have been the team’s most important player on the night, matching up against King and holder her to 9 points on 3-13 shooting, almost half of her yearly average.
“Defensively, we followed the game plan and did a really good job. Holding King to 9 points is a really big accomplishment and Molly Heron had a big night tonight,” Head Coach Bill Himmelberg said. “She had that matchup and did a really good job. I was really pleased with her and the whole team defensively.”
After Randich’s three put UP ahead 11-9, the Lady Argos began to pull away in the second quarter with a 10-0 run to start the period. Junior post Tristan Murphy scored 7 of the team’s 15 points in the quarter, and the Bulldogs failed to score for almost the first five minutes and last two minutes.
To start the second half, Western threatened to get back in the game, bringing the score within 6 points, but after those first two minutes, UP outscored Western 18-2 to hold a 46-24 lead with just 10 minutes left.
That lead grew to 27 before Himmelberg started to pull starters for bench players. With just under three minutes to go, Western had the gap down to 16 points and the UP starters came back on for another two minutes and during that time, the Bulldogs only scored 1 point.
The only game where the Lady Argos allowed few points and a lower opponent shooting percentage was in the team’s 59-36 win over then (22) Cumberland during the Jackson Rotary Classic back on November 25.
McDonagh, Murphy, and freshman post Parker Esary combined to score 38 of the team’s 53 points. All three reached double-digits with Esary leading the way with 15, her sixth straight game with 10 or more points.
For the 15th time in 16 games, McDonagh scored 10 or more points, finishing with 12 points, 7 rebounds, and 4 steals. Her 7 boards, along with 6 from Esary, helped the Lady Argos outrebound one of the top rebounding teams in the country 41-29.
While Maldonado didn’t have a great shooting night, hitting 3-11 from the floor, the freshman did everything extremely well, leading the team in rebounds (9), assists (4), and steals (4). With a stature of 5-5, the 9 boards were particularly impressive.
“Emilee getting 9 boards was really big. Rebound was an emphasis for us in practice all week and she came through,” Himmelberg said. “I thought she handled the pressure and the basketball really well.”
The briefly had UP tied at the top of the Frontier Conference standings with a record of 13-3 (4-1) but a win from Carroll College has the Fighting Saints a half game ahead with a conference record of 5-1. Things don’t get any easier for the Lady Argos with the next contest coming on the road against (7) Lewis-Clark State College, the defending national runner-up and a team UP hasn’t beaten in Lewiston, Idaho since February 2015.