BUTTE — It was mayhem.
Sindou Diallo hit a go-ahead layup with three seconds remaining to break a tie and lift Montana Tech to a thrilling 70-68 victory over Montana Western in the Frontier Conference Tournament semifinals on Friday at the HPER Complex. The win puts Tech in the conference championship game for the first time since the 1998-99 season.
After Western's last-gasp shot fell short, fans stormed the court and mobbed players in what was surely one of the most electrifying sights to ever unfold on Kelvin Sampson court.
"Obviously, we're ecstatic," said sixth-year Tech head coach Adam Hiatt. "A great ending. We're fortunate that we had the ball last. As I've said all year, regardless of records or seeding these games come down to the wire in these rivalry games."
Placed in a similar situation in an early-season game against College of Idaho, Diallo was called for a travel. He knew with the stakes being much, much higher this time that he couldn't afford to turn the ball over.
"I knew it was very important for me to slow down, just take my time" Diallo said. "At the end of the day I knew the worst that could happen was go to overtime."
Diallo had a game-high 24 points, Taylor England scored 18 and Drew Huse notched 11 for Tech which erased an eight point halftime deficit and led by nine with less than five minutes remaining before holding off Western at the buzzer.
The Orediggers now face top-seeded Carroll College in the championship game on Monday in Helena. The Saints, which held off MSU-Northern 71-63 in the other semi, went 2-1 against Tech in the regular season. That advantage awarded the No. 1 playoff seed to Carroll which finished the regular season with an identical 12-2 conference record to Tech.
Western concludes the season at 19-13 overall and 7-8 in the Frontier Conference. The Bulldogs, which made it the semifinals after beating Providence at home on Tuesday, were led by 22 points from Jalen Hodges, a double-double from Max Clark with 17 points and 13 boards, and 13 points from Jamal Stephenson.
Hiatt lamented that the title game wasn't held on a neutral site but said the surge of confidence from winning a semifinal should serve his team well as it gets one more shot at the No. 8 Saints.
"They're a phenomenal team at home," Hiatt said. "But we're just excited to be in this position, to get Montana Tech back to that position.
"We're gonna be prepared, we're gonna be ready. It's gonna be a tremendous battle."