GREAT FALLS — The University of Providence men's and women’s basketball teams wrapped up their holiday trip down to Arizona where they faced off against other NAIA programs in the annual Cactus Classic national tournament.
The men started off with a loss against Antelope Valley after coming back from being down 14 points the second half with a shot to tie it at the buzzer by Marcus Stephens who just missed short.
“They really fought back, that game looked like it was going to be a blowout but in the second half, the team kind of responded and really kind of fought back to make it interesting,” University of Providence Sports Information Director Alexander Semadeni said of the first loss. “They had a shot to win it but it just didn’t go in.”
Marcus Stephens followed up a 22-point performance against Antelope Valley with a career-high 38 points on 16-29 shooting to beat Benedictine-Mesa by two points. He was named Frontier Conference Player of the Week with the Argos finishing 2-1 with wins against Benedictine-Mesa and Embry-Riddle.
The women dominated the first two games winning both by 25 points or more. Their third game was a rematch of the NAIA national tournament game against #17 Dakota State where the Argos were defeated less than a year ago. The Argos battled out a 68-63 revenge win in their last game of the tournament to go 3-0.
“They want[ed] it bad. This is the team that knocked us out of the national tournament last year,” assistant coach and former Argo great Stephanie McDonagh said. “Emilee [Maldonado] only played half the game last year because she was injured so I think she [was] ready to make a statement today.”
Senior point guard Emilee Maldonado was healthy this time around. She scored a team-high 23 points. Also, With the win yesterday over Benedictine-Mesa, All-Americans Emilee Maldonado and Parker Esary won their 81st games as Argos; the most in program history. They surpassed their former teammate and current assistant coach McDonagh who previously held the record with 80.
“It’s really cool to see because it’s not the first record of mine they’ve broken and it won’t be the last for sure. They’re two of the best players to have ever gone here and I’m just happy to contribute in some way now.”
Both the men and women’s programs hit the court again Dec. 29 in Billings against Dickinson State.