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No. 10 Montana Tech men outlast Providence, earn back-to-back Frontier tournament titles

Tech men celebration
Caleb Bellach Championship
Posted at 10:09 PM, Feb 28, 2023

GREAT FALLS — Heading into this season, Adam Hiatt felt a touch of uncertainty about how this team would fare considering the number of star players that had graduated and the new faces that would be filling their shoes.

Looking back after Tuesday's Frontier Conference tournament championship, Montana Tech's head men's basketball coach's concerns weren't an issue.

First-year member Asa Williams dropped in a game-high 23 points and the No. 10 Orediggers surged to a double-digit halftime lead against Providence and then weathered a furious comeback attempt by the Argos en route to a 103-96 victory to lock up back-to-back tournament titles.

"We were very confident from the beginning of the season," Hiatt said. "We liked our roster and the character of our guys. The parts just fit."

It took those parts firing on all cylinders to outlast a Providence squad — being coach by Steve Keller in the final game for the iconic coach — that fell into an 18-point first-half deficit before the Argos 3-point shooting helped trim Tech's lead to 62-55 at the half.

The Argos continued to drain treys after the break — Providence finished with 15 3-pointers, including four from both Marcus Stephens and Davien Harris-Williams — and eventually trimmed Tech's lead to one point. But the Argos would never tie or take the lead.

"We knew that it would be high scoring because Providence has such great talent on their team, guys that can just make individual plays," Hiatt said. "It felt like we gave them a little too much rhythm going into half. Fortunately for us our guys responded well in the second half."

Tech's Camdyn LaRance scored seven points in the final five minutes to give the Orediggers a 100-90 lead with 2:42 remaining and help seal the victory.

Tech had seven players score in double digits, including Williams. Caleb Bellach had 15, Bridger Larson scored 14 and Keeley Bake and Hayden Diekhans each had 12. LaRance added 11 and Michael Ure chipped in with 10.

The Argos were led by 22 points from Stephens, 21 from Harris-Williams, 20 from Kenny Curtis, 14 from Sam Vining and 10 points from Jake Olsen.

Tech, will be a host site for the opening round of the NAIA National Tournament next week, will learn its seeding on Thursday and which teams will be making the trek to Butte.