DILLON — The 2017-18 season was one to remember for the Montana Western women’s basketball program.
Western won 27 games and made its second straight appearance in the NAIA National Tournament. Last season, the Bulldogs won a game and were a bucket away from upsetting eventual national champion Oklahoma City. This season, the Bulldogs made it all the way to the national semifinal. The experience of playing on the big stage was key to this season’s run.
“All the nerves were gone that came along with coming to nationals for the first time,” said forward Britt Cooper. “It was a good experience for us to be able to have that under our belt.”
It’s hard to call a 27-win season a roller-coaster ride, but the Dawgs hit some highs, winning as many as seven games in a row, and lows, losing multiple games in a row by double digits, along the way. When March rolled around, Western began clicking.
“We were playing some of our better basketball at the national tournament, and (opponents) hadn’t seen us before, so that helped,” said guard Cierra Lamey.
The journey came to an end in the Fab Four in a 61-50 loss to another eventual national champion, Freed-Hardeman.
“I think they just came out with a little more energy, and they’re more experienced at that level than we were used to,” Cooper said. “(But) that was a good experience for us, so hopefully next year we’ll be more prepared for that.”
If the Bulldogs felt more comfortable this season, the next could be even more magical with all five starters returning.
“It’s an exciting time for our kids, and I know that they’re going to be hungry,” said head coach Lindsay Woolley. “Hopefully they have a great summer and they’re ready to roll next fall.”