BUTTE — For the second straight day, the Montana Tech men knew that they'd need to dig deep. And, for the second straight day, they did exactly that.
Sophomore Michael Ure scored a game-high 22 points and freshman Hayden Diekhans notched a double-double and scored 8 of his 12 points after regulation as the Orediggers — still missing Frontier Conference Player of the Year Caleb Bellach — mounted several rallies and managed to gut out a 77-72 overtime win over Thomas More University in the second round of the NAIA National Tournament on Tuesday night at the HPER Complex.
That victory sends Tech (28-4 overall) to the Round of 16 for the first time in program history, comes one week after the Orediggers locked up back-to-back Frontier Conference Tournament championships and one year after Tech fell in a second-round game in Texas.
Tech will face William Penn (Iowa) at 7 p.m. Mountain Time. William Penn is the top seed out of the Cramer Quadrant and Tech is No. 4.
"We're a team of fighters," said Ure, who connected on 8-of-11 field goal attempts. "We work hard from start to finish. I'm very proud of every one of the guys on the team. Every time that (Thomas More) had a run we had to come back and do what we do, keep the energy rolling."
Asa Williams added 18 points points for the Orediggers and Camdyn LaRance added 7. Thomas More got a team-high 20 points from Jolly Reid, 13 apiece from Wyatt Vieth and Noah Pack and 12 from both Jacob Joones and Kyle Ross.
The Orediggers struggled to defend against the Saints shooters in the first half as Thomas More took a 41-34 lead into the break and shot 59.4% from the field to Tech's 37.9%.
.@MTechHoops never-give-up attitude tonight highlighted on this play as Michael Ure gets the steal, ends up on the ground, gets up and ends up stuffing a breakaway dunk off an assist from Bridger Deden to tie the game at 62 late in the second half. #mtscores pic.twitter.com/W3gu5KSH6D— Luke Shelton (@lukeshelton_mtn) March 9, 2023
Tech rallied back in the second half and tied the game three times in the first five minutes. The Saints then pulled away to lead 54-57 with 11:17 remaining and Tech spent the next 7 minutes playing catchup before a steal and dunk from Ure tied the game at 62 with 4:31 remaining.
With 1:06 left in regulation, Ure hit a go-ahead 3-pointer to put Tech up 67-66. Pack than hit 1-of-2 free throws with 35 seconds left and the game eventually headed to overtime.
That's when Diekhans, a Fort Benton product, took over.
The freshman forward scored the first 6 points of OT and the Orediggers never relinquished the lead and went on to preserve their perfect home record, with this win one of the most significant in program history.
"We don't want to lose on the home court," said Diekhans. "We haven't lost all season here. So we didn't want to make it to the last game of the year to lose here."
After claiming the Frontier Tournament title in Great Falls last week, Tech head coach Adam Hiatt told his team in the locker room that they still had work to do. That message continues to apply.
"The job's not done," Hiatt said. "We've won three championships this year. Regular season, conference tournament and now this first regional. We've got one more to go try to win."