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Steve Keller picks up career win No. 300

University of Providence sweeps Rocky Mountain College
Steve Keller
Posted at 8:13 PM, Jan 15, 2022

(Editor's note: University of Providence media release)

University of Providence head men's basketball coach Steve Keller earned his 300th career win on Saturday, as the University of Providence men's basketball team defeated Rocky Mountain College 90-83 in Billings, Mont.

The two teams battled early in the contest, with the Battlin' Bears (9-9, 2-4) taking a 45-40 lead into the break. The Argos (10-8, 2-4) made some offensive halftime adjustments that led to a 50-point offensive outing in the second half. Brenden Howard and Marcus Stephens both scored 20 points in the second half as the Argos shot 62% from the field in the second-half to take control of the game.

"We changed our offense a little bit in the second that freed up our guys a little more," Keller said. "Brendan and Marcus kind of took over and our other guys stepped up when we needed them too. Dawson hit a huge three, Rashee hit a huge three. There was a lot of adversity but it was a total team effort."

Stephens and Howard both scored over 30 points for the squad, with Stephens finishing with 31 and Howard notching 30. Rashee Stocks added 12 points for the team, while Dawson Fowler added nine.

"Right now those two have good chemistry," Keller said. "The other guys were converting and hitting big shots. We need all our guys. I'm not sure if I've had two guys get 30 in the same night but it was awesome."

Six players scored in double-figures for the Battlin' Bears, led by Abdul Bah's 18 points. Tayshawun Bradford added 14 points while Jesse Owens added 13.

The win puts Keller at a career-record of 300-155, good for a winning percentage of 65.9%. He recorded 214 wins at Montana Western, before joining Providence prior to the 2018-19 season. He has led ten different teams to the NAIA National Tournament between the two schools, and last year led Providence to their first conference championship since the 1982-83 season.

"I'm honored to get to 300," Keller said. "It's not about me because I've been surrounded by great players. You don't get to 300 wins at this level without having great players. We had some great players at Western and we had some great players at Providence as well. And I wouldn't have gotten anywhere without my assistant coaches. I feel really blessed."

More importantly in Keller's eyes, the win stops a four-game losing streak for the squad, who have been battling illnesses since the return from the holiday break. The game today marked the first-time in the new year that the team has played with a full roster.

"We needed to get a win," Keller said. "With all the sickness that we've had and not being able to fully practice, it was good to get back in the win column. The schedule doesn't get any easier as we hit the road the next two games."

The Argos will continue their road trip next Thursday with a 7:00 p.m. road trip with Montana State-Northern.

Women

Providence 57, Rocky 55

The #22 University of Providence women's basketball team got their second straight win over a ranked opponent, defeating #15 Rocky Mountain College 57-55 Saturday afternoon in Billings. The win moves the Argos (18-3, 5-1) into a tie with the Battlin' Bears (15-2, 5-1) for first place in the Frontier Conference standings.

The Argos had a nine-point lead heading into the final quarter, but the Battlin' Bears came storming back cutting the lead to two off a McKenzie Dethman layup with 43 seconds remaining. Both sides committed three straight turnovers, giving the Bears the ball with 20 seconds on the clock. N'Dea Flye missed a jumper with five seconds left and a Parker Esary rebound sealed the Argos victory.

"Our five-year seniors made the difference," assistant coach JC Isakson said. "Emilee leads the country in minutes. She's played a lot of basketball. Parker's played a lot of basketball. They don't panic. It's a testament to Coach Himmelberg and having them ready throughout all these years. They're well-trained basketball players. Their leadership carried us down the stretch. We're facing some adversity in our program right now and they stepped up and handled their business."

Four Argos scored in double-figures in the win, with Emilee Maldonado leading the way with 16 points and five rebounds. Maddy Dixon added 12 points and seven rebounds for the squad, and knocked down all three of her three-point attempts. Brooklyn Harn added 11 points for the Argos, while Parker Esary finished with 10 points and eight boards.

"Maddy was the key tonight," Isakson said. "She hasn't been shooting the ball very well and we told her that we had to make other teams pay for that. She made them pay and also got some rebounds. Brooklyn did her thing off the bench. We know what we're going to get from Parker and Emilee, it's just different girls stepping up every night. That's how we're going to win."

Defense was also a big part of the team's success. The Bears shot just 35% from the field, including 15% from beyond the arc. They also held NAIA National Player of the Week N'Dea Flye to 14 points on 6/23 shooting. Kloie Thatcher and Dethman added 10 points for the Bears.

"Flye is an unbelievable athlete," Isakson said. "We knew that she's going to get hers and we just wanted to make her work for it. She got in foul trouble early so that helped us. In the second half we knew she was going to try to take over the game. Reed is an exceptional athlete as well and she did an unbelievable job on her making it difficult."

The win over the Battlin' Bears marks the ninth straight win for the squad. The winning streak now includes four wins over ranked opponents, including over #6 Carroll on Thursday.

"It was a huge week, but they're all huge weeks," Isakson said. "It's a short walk from the penthouse to the outhouse. We're in the penthouse so we're going to enjoy that tonight, but next week we have to be focused because every single weekend in the Frontier Conference is a big weekend. If you let your guard down, somebody is going to get you. It was a big weekend for us and we're going to enjoy that right now, but they're all big."

The Argos will go for their tenth straight win on Thursday, Jan. 20 in Havre, Mont. against Montana State-Northern. Tip off will occur at 5:00 p.m.