DILLON — Britt Cooper’s bucket with 14 seconds left propelled Montana Western past Lewis-Clark State in Friday’s Frontier Conference women’s basketball playoffs semifinal. The Bulldogs held off a late rally from the Warriors to win, 71-67.
Western led by five after Brianna King’s basket with 56 seconds left, but Lewis-Clark answered with a 3-pointer by Hailey Turner to cut the Western lead to 69-67 with 41 seconds to play. Out of a timeout, Western took the shot clock near expiration before Cooper pushed the lead to four with 14 seconds on the clock.
The Bulldogs trailed early, but Lewis-Clark built a 15-10 lead after the first quarter. Western, though, came roaring back in the second, outscoring the Warriors 19-8 and taking a six-point lead into halftime.
“We picked up our defensive pressure, really stepped it up there and just kept talking. It was really the energy,” Western sophomore Paige Holmes said.
“We finally got some stops, I think they might have scored the first four or five possessions of the game,” Western head coach Lindsay Woolley said. “I think we were a little tentative, and we were turning it over like crazy.”
The third quarter brought fireworks, as the teams combined to make 13 3-pointers. Lewis-Clark made eight, but the Bulldogs were able to keep pace and hold a five-point advantage entering the final quarter.
Western pushed its lead to 10 at the 6:21 mark on a 3 by Shannon Worster, but the Warriors would then mount their run. They went on a 10-3 run to trim the Bulldogs’ lead to 67-64 with 1:40 to play, with Savannah Bignell’s 3 slowing Lewis-Clark’s momentum.
But the crunch time baskets by King and Cooper were enough to push the Bulldogs into the Frontier Conference championship game.
“We just kept talking, we switched all the screens. We really communicated well for the last minute or two,” Holmes said.
“(King) made a great play on a sideline-out-of-bounds (play) and then (Cooper) made a great play late in the shot clock and finished a tough layup in traffic,” Woolley said. “The difference was, we executed and made shots late. I thought (Bignell) hit a huge 3 late to stem the tide a little bit. They were making 3s from everywhere, and it was all of them.”
King led all scorers with 20 points, hitting 5 of 13 3-point attempts, pulled down six rebounds and dished out five assists. Cierra Lamey added 15 for the Bulldogs, while Cooper had nine points and eight rebounds. Peyton Souvenir led Lewis-Clark with 19 points off the bench, also hitting five 3s.
Montana Western will host Carroll College on March 4 after the Saints beat Rocky Mountain College in Friday’s other semifinal game. The winner will be granted the Frontier Conference’s automatic bid to the NAIA national tournament in Billings at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark March 13-19.