(Editor’s note: University of Montana athletics release)
OGDEN, Utah — With her team mired in a four-game losing streak and the most important time of the year — the postseason — rapidly approaching, Montana senior Jace Henderson got her team righted last week.
She averaged 21.5 points on 64.3 percent shooting and 11.5 rebounds as the Lady Griz picked up a little momentum for this week’s Big Sky Conference tournament with home victories over Portland State and Sacramento State.
For her two-game performance, she was named the Big Sky Player of the Week on Sunday. It was a career first for the forward from Billings and a first for Montana since McKenzie Johnston was recognized in 2016-17, more than two years ago.
Facing a Portland State team on Thursday that soundly defeated Montana back in January, that hadn’t lost a league game to a team outside of those making up the top three tournament seeds and features a pair of 6-foot-4 menacing presences in the middle, Henderson was undaunted.
She scored 25 points, the second-best scoring effort of her career, and added a career-high 18 rebounds while playing 43 of the game’s 45 minutes.
Her biggest basket of the game came in the final minute of regulation. After the Vikings scored four straight points to take a 64-62 lead, the Lady Griz went right to Henderson. Her jump-hook over Jordan Stotler was good with 16 seconds left and sent the game into overtime.
Montana never trailed in the extra period and would go on to a 73-70 victory.
Two days later, Henderson put the pregame emotions of Senior Day behind her and led Montana to a 75-67 victory over Sacramento State.
She finished with 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting and added five rebounds and a team-high five assists.
With the teams deadlocked at 32 coming out of the halftime break, Henderson scored eight third-quarter points on perfect 4-of-4 shooting to spark the Lady Griz to a lead they would maintain through the end of the game.
Her two-game shooting performance upped her season percentage to .570 and moved her back atop the Big Sky statistics. She also ranks in the top 20 in the league in scoring (12.0/g), the top 10 in assists (3.8/g) and third in rebounding (8.6/g).
She and Montana (14-15) will take the No. 7 seed into this week’s Big Sky tournament in Boise. The Lady Griz will face No. 10 Southern Utah (7-22) in a first-round game at 5:30 p.m. on Monday.
The winner of that game will face No. 2 Northern Colorado (20-9) on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. in the quarterfinals.