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Late Worster layup pushes Montana Western into NAIA national semifinals

Posted at 5:42 PM, Mar 16, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-17 00:41:15-04

BILLINGS – Shannon Worster made a layup with 22 seconds left to break a 55-55 tie, followed by two key Montana Western defensive stops to propel the Bulldogs to a 60-55 win over The Master’s University Saturday in the NAIA Women’s Basketball Championship quarterfinals inside Rimrock Auto Arena.

UM Western trailed by as many as 11 late in the third quarter, but battled back to take a 55-53 lead on a Paige Holmes 3-pointer with 1:03 left in the fourth. The Master’s then made two free throws to tie it at 55-55 before Worster drove down the right baseline and scored to put the Bulldogs up for good.

The final possessions were chaotic. National Player of the Year Brianna King forced a Mustangs turnover with 18 seconds to play, only to turn it over herself moments later, but Rebekah Throns then committed a traveling violation to give it back to the Bulldogs. The Master’s fouled Holmes, who made both free throws to put Western up 59-55 and sealed the win.

Britt Cooper led a balanced Bulldogs attack with 14 points, while King scored 12 to go along with six rebounds and four assists. Cierra Lamey and Tori Anderson each scored 10 while Worster finished with nine.

Anika Neuman led all scorers with 16 for the Mustangs.

The win puts UM Western back into the NAIA semifinals for the second straight year. The Bulldogs will play fellow No. 1-seed Freed-Hardeman, which beat UM Western 61-50 in the 2018 semifinals on its way to a national championship. Tipoff is set for Monday at 6 p.m.