BUTTE — The Montana Tech men's and women's basketball teams opened Frontier Conference play on Saturday at the HPER Complex against Rocky Mountain College.
The Orediggers swept the Battlin' Bears in a pair of down-to-the-wire games, with the Tech men requiring overtime to fend off Rocky in a top-15 matchup.
The Battlin' Bears now return home to host Providence on Thursday, while the Orediggers travel to Havre to face MSU-Northern.
Montana Tech women 51, No. 12 Rocky Mountain College 50
The Orediggers headed into Saturday's conference opener with an unblemished 6-0 record at home but were going to need to deliver their best performance of the season to maintain it against a top-15 program.
Tech — and especially its defense — delivered.
Challis Westwater hit the back end of a one-and-one to give Tech a one-point lead in the final minute and Macy Mayer then came down with a game-sealing defensive rebound in the final seconds as the Orediggers upended the No. 12 Bears for one of Tech's biggest wins under second-year head coach Jeff Graham.
Rocky was averaging over 70 points a game, and Graham felt that if his squad could hold the Bears to under 60 points his team would have a shot at the upset.
"That was our goal was to keep them under that 60, they're just so explosive," Graham said of his team which held Rocky to five fourth-quarter points. "The effort was great, that was huge to hold them to 50."
Tech held Rocky to 17-of-53 shooting from the field while the Bears limited the Orediggers to 15 of 47.
Tech had three players score in double figures with Brooklyn Hankwitz scoring 13 points (including three 3-pointers), Liv Wangerin adding 11 and Westwater scoring 10.
Rocky was led by 12 points from Gracee Lekvold and 11 from Ky Oliver.
No. 7 Montana Tech men 85, No. 15 Rocky Mountain College 80 (OT)
The Orediggers seem to play their best basketball when an extra frame is needed.
Keeley Bake hit a tying 3-pointer at the end of regulation to force overtime, Michael Ure scored a game-high 22 points— going 10 for 15 from the field — and Asa Williams added 21 as the Orediggers opened their Frontier Conference title defense with a victory over a top-15 opponent.
Tech played in five overtime games last season and won all of those contests. The Orediggers are now 6 for 6 in their current overtime streak.
"I think there's a lot of doubt and uncertainties in regulation where you're questioning yourself," said Tech head coach Adam Hiatt. "Once we get to overtime our guys feel like, 'hey, we just got a new lease on life. Got a little bit more time, five more minute to prove that we're worthy to win this game.'"
Hayden Diekhans — who finished with 11 points and nine rebounds — hit a go-ahead shot with less than two minutes left in overtime to put Tech ahead 79-77, and then Williams delivered another go-ahead bucket with 1:27 left to put the Orediggers ahead for good.
Camdyn LaRance added 14 points for Tech, which shot 44 percent from the field to Rocky's 35.7.
The Battlin' Bears were paced by A.J. Wilson with a team-high 21 points, 15 from Maxim Stephens, 14 from Jesse Owens and 14 from Kael Robinson.