(MSU Billings release)
LEWISTON, Idaho – Addison Gardner hit the biggest shot of her Montana State University Billings career on Saturday afternoon, draining a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to give the Yellowjackets a thrilling 82-81 overtime victory over host Lewis-Clark State College in exhibition play at the Activity Center.
Kiara Burlage, who reached 1,000 career points in the ballgame, made a layup with just 4.2 seconds left in overtime to give the Warriors a two-point advantage. Coming out of a timeout, point guard Skylar Patton found Gardner on the wing and the junior got the shot off just before the final buzzer as the ‘Jackets stunned the Warriors.
“We drew it up in the timeout, for Skylar to either get a layup or have me open in the corner,” Gardner said on the first game-winning shot of her basketball career. “I just chucked it up there, and didn’t think it was going in at all. I have never hit a buzzer-beater in my life – I was in disbelief and broke into tears. That’s why you play right there – that moment, that happiness.”
The dramatic victory helped the Yellowjackets split the road trip against the Warriors, after Friday’s 67-61 defeat. The teams split their four-game season series as well, after each won a game in Billings at the beginning of the month. “It felt really good,” Gardner said on her team rallying to pull out the win. “We didn’t want to lose twice on the road, we wanted to split. I’m glad we got that done.”
Gardner finished with a team-high 17 points on 5-for-8 accuracy from the arc, while adding six rebounds and playing 39 minutes. Taryn Shelley, whom the ‘Jackets were without from the 3:00 minute mark in the fourth quarter when she fouled out onward, matched Gardner with 17 points while grabbing eight rebounds in the game.
Freshman Dyauni Boyce added 14 points and seven boards, while Patton and Cariann Kunkel had a dozen points apiece to lead MSUB. On a night where MSB dominated the glass to the tune of a 50-28 edge in rebounding, freshman Kortney Nelson led the team with 10 boards while also scoring seven points.
“The turnaround is unreal physically and mentally, and to do it with as few healthy players as we had really shows the grit that they have,” said MSUB assistant coach Alisha Breen, whom head coach Kevin Woodin appointed as the head coach for Saturday’s game. “On the road you have to split, but winning the second game is really hard to do. Give props to Kevin – being a head coach is extremely stressful. In the last timeout he drew up a play, and the girls ran it perfectly. We harp on final situations in practice, and it was amazing to see them execute it like they did.”
Gardner and Boyce hit back-to-back threes to start the fourth quarter and give the ‘Jackets a 51-50 lead, hinting the back-and-forth finish that was about to unfold. The final period of regulation featured six ties and 11 lead changes, as the teams ultimately ended in a 68-68 stalemate to set up overtime.
Nelson drew a foul at the end of the fourth quarter, and upon being unable to shoot the free throws due to injury, junior Shannon Reny was summoned into the game off the bench to take the shots. She made the first to tie the score, which helped keep MSUB alive. “When Kortney went out, we had to pull Shannon from the bench for the free throw,” Breen said. “She didn’t play a lot of minutes, but her free throws and assist to Dyauni were unreal. She’s such a huge part of our team, and it showed that everyone who suited up tonight was ready to go at any time.”
Much like the fourth quarter, the overtime period featured a back-and-forth feel with neither team leading by more than two points. A Jansen Edmiston jumper preceded Burlage’s last-second layup, as the Warriors put together a four-point swing to nearly seal the game. But Gardner had the final say as she let the game-winning shot fly in the nick of time. “All the hours you spend shooting by yourself, literally everything all goes into one shot,” said Breen. “They just surrounded her and it was pure joy. You come to college to find a family, and there is nothing more pure than a win like that. That’s what it’s all about.”
Peyton Souvenir led all players with 23 points, and narrowly missed a double-double with a game-high nine assists as well. Abbie Johnson finished with 22 points on 10-for-17 shooting, while Burlage chipped in 19 and Edmiston finished with 11. The Warriors committed just eight turnovers in the game, and shot 40.6 percent overall (28-for-69) including 36.4 percent from the arc (8-for-22).
MSUB meanwhile had 22 giveaways, but improved its shooting drastically from Friday’s loss with marks of 48.4 percent overall (30-for-62) and 48.0 percent from long range (12-for-25). The ‘Jackets however struggled from the free-throw line, where they converted just 10 of 19 attempts (52.6 percent).
Johnson made a bucket at the 4:02 mark in the opening quarter to give LC State a 9-6 advantage, but it turned out to be the last points the Warriors scored until the 8:20 mark in the second quarter. MSUB capitalized on the nearly six-minute dry spell to build its largest lead of the half, going up 16-9 on a Shelley layup assisted by Kunkel.
The Warriors righted the ship in the second quarter, scoring 22 points as they made 8 of 18 shots (44.4 percent) including 4 of 5 threes in the period. The final trey came off the fingertips of Burlage with just three seconds left in the half, and propelled LC State into the locker room with a 31-28 advantage.
Emerging from the locker room with newfound energy, MSUB went on a 9-0 run to open the third quarter and snatch a 37-31 lead. The Warriors wrestled command for the rest of the period however, building a 49-45 edge by the end of the third to set up the exciting ending.
THE BUZZ: Gardner was selected as the St. Vincent Healthcare Player of the Game…her five made threes and 17 points were both career highs.
NEXT WEEK: The Yellowjackets return home and will host Rocky Mountain College on Wednesday evening at 5 p.m. in the opening game of a doubleheader with the MSUB men’s team. Live video will be available online here [youtube.com] and live statistics will be available online here [lcwarriors.com].