(Editor’s note: Story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – It was a win for the Lady Griz on Thursday night at Dahlberg Arena over Portland State. Only time will tell if it turns into something more than just Montana’s 13th victory of the season.
Jace Henderson had a monster double-double of 25 points and 18 rebounds and Montana snapped a four-game losing streak with a 73-70 overtime victory over the Vikings, who hadn’t lost a league game this season to a team outside of the top three in the Big Sky Conference standings.
It also avenged a one-sided 78-60 loss to PSU back in early January. Now Montana hosts Sacramento State on Saturday at 2 p.m. with an opportunity to get on a small roll prior to next week’s Big Sky tournament in Boise.
“Having a little momentum going there would be the best thing that could happen for us. We’ve had a little rough stretch. I love the way we responded by getting this one against a really good team,” said third-year coach Shannon Schweyen.
“To get one more on Saturday and go into the tournament with a couple of wins would be phenomenal.”
When Montana and Portland State met earlier this season, the Vikings led 29-9 after the opening quarter, and the game was essentially over.
On Thursday night, Montana came out and set the tone, holding the Vikings scoreless for more than five and a half minutes after Ashley Bolston opened the scoring with a 3-pointer.
Henderson scored six points, McKenzie Johnston added four as Montana got out to a 15-3 lead.
Emma Stockholm scored and also got Portland State both frustrated and what would later turn out to be foul trouble, drawing three offensive fouls in the opening period.
Montana led 20-11 after one.
“We came out on fire. I thought Emma set the tone in that game immediately, and it just exploded from there,” said Schweyen. “It was just some great talk, some great movement in the zone and some great teamwork. It was a lot of fun to see them working together like that.
“Emma set the tone of how our intensity was going to be on defense. She’s become a master at drawing charges and how to look for them.”
Portland State pulled within 32-25 at the half, then scored 24 points in the third quarter, going up 39-38 on a Bolston jumper, the Vikings’ first lead since the opening minutes of the game.
PSU led 49-47 entering the fourth quarter, and it was a tight battle the rest of the way. The game had 13 lead changes and nine times it was tied.
“It was a crazy game. I’m extremely proud of this group,” said Schweyen. “We had a rough stretch, losing a few games, and we kept talking about how we needed to keep steering the ship in the right direction.
“And we always love this atmosphere. The ladies are so much more into it when we’re at home.”
Montana needed that backing in the fourth quarter, when Portland State twice built its lead to five.
Trailing 58-53 midway through the final period, Stockholm hit a big corner three. Less than two minutes later, Henderson converted a three-point play to give the Lady Griz their first lead of the final period, 59-58, with 3:03 to play.
Jordyn Schweyen, who played 34 minutes and went 3 for 4 from the arc and grabbed seven boards, hit a triple with just over two minutes to go to give Montana a 62-60 lead.
Kylie Jimenez and Sidney Rielly looked to close it out with baskets in the final 63 seconds. Rielly’s runner made it 64-62 with 28 seconds left.
Montana did as expected with the game on the line and got the ball inside to Henderson, who was bodied all game by Portland State’s two 6-foot-4 post players, Courtney West and Jordan Stotler.
Looking exhausted in the late stages of the game — she would play 43 minutes — Henderson found enough strength to get one more to go with 16 seconds left. The game was tied 64-64.
That and Schweyen’s block on a potential game-winning 3-pointer sent the game to overtime.
“Jace was just a machine in there. Those are not easy buckets at the end,” said Schweyen. “You’re shooting over a 6-foot-4 girl, one-on-one in the post, and you’re exhausted. Those were huge baskets she made down the stretch.”
Johnston and Henderson both scored in the opening minute of overtime to give Montana a lead it would hold through the final buzzer.
Johnston missed a pair of free throws with just under a minute left and her team leading by two, but Portland State couldn’t capitalize, going turnover-missed shot.
Johnston was true with two free throws with 10.7 seconds left and that clinched it.
“Those were big free throws Kenzie knocked down after missing two,” said Schweyen. “That’s always a little bit rougher after you’ve missed a couple.”
Montana missed 10 free throws, which could have proved costly, but the Lady Griz still made eight more than did Portland State, which played its way to 24 fouls. Those fouls sent Montana to the line 24 times.
The Lady Griz, one of the nation’s leaders in fewest fouls committed, was whistled for just eight, with PSU going 6 for 8 from the line.
The Vikings had two players foul out and two more starters finish with four each.
“We did a good job not having anyone in foul trouble,” said Schweyen. “When you get to overtime, you have to hope you still have your starters. We were in good shape there, and that was certainly helpful for us.”
Montana was +12 on the boards and shot 44.3 percent. The Lady Griz shot 31.8 percent when they lost to the Vikings at Portland.
“I’ve got to give credit to (assistant coach Mike Petrino),” said Schweyen. “We watched a lot of film on these guys. He came up with a little wrinkle, and the ladies did a great job executing it.”
The win gives Montana a victory over three of the top four teams in the Big Sky, missing only Northern Colorado. After playing a first-round game in Boise on Monday, the Lady Griz would, with a win, face one of those teams on Tuesday.
“We’ve knocked off some of the big horses. We’ve beaten Idaho, we’ve beaten Idaho State, we’ve beaten these guys,” said Schweyen.
“We talked about that in the locker room. If we can take it one game at a time when we get to the tournament and get a chance to play one of these guys, we know we can do it.”
Montana (13-15, 8-11 BSC) will host Sacramento State (10-17, 6-13 BSC) at 2 p.m. on Saturday. The Hornets knocked down 13 3-pointers but came up short of pulling off an upset at Montana State on Thursday, losing 64-58.
The game will also serve as a sendoff for Henderson, who will be playing for the final time at Dahlberg Arena as the team’s lone senior. If any game showed Henderson’s value to the program and to this year’s team in particular, Thursday was it.
“It would be great to get a big crowd in here to say goodbye to Jace,” said Schweyen. “She’s been something special for the Lady Griz.”