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King me: How Bri King and Montana Western arrived in their first NAIA title game

Posted at 5:06 PM, Mar 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 13:08:42-04

BILLINGS – It’ll forever be remembered as the season-saving shot at UM Western. And maybe the title-saving shot. 

With time expiring in Monday’s semifinal, the Bulldogs were down three with 2.1 seconds left. That’s when Bri King did what she does.

“I wanted to create some space, because there were two people on me,” she said afterward. “I had to get some kind of space.”

Bulldogs head coach Lindsay Woolley was thinking one thing as he watched it unfold, but saw another.

“I wanted her to shoot it right away because I thought she had an opening when she took her first dribble,” he recalled. “Then she just paused, and I was like, ‘Oh no.'”

Oh no instantly turned into, Oh yes.

King was instantly double-teamed in the inbound, took a jab step to create space, but stepped across the three point line to do it. Without hesitation she had the sense to step back and with not one, but two defenders in her face, buried UM Western’s season-saver.

King’s shot forced overtime against the team that eliminated UMW in last year’s semis, and from there the Bulldogs knocked out Freed-Hardeman. Overtime was never in doubt with a 78-71 final.

“It feels great,” King said after. “Obviously Freed-Hardeman is a great team so it feels nice to get another shot at them and prove… show people what we can do.”

A week ago (Tuesday night), King was named NAIA National Women’s Player of the Year. This was her reaction to MTN Sports.

“It was definitely a goal of mine at the beginning of the season,” she said. “As the season progressed, I started to see it as a possibility so it’s a huge honor. My teammates were just going crazy, so it’s a really good feeling.”

Through four games, King and her strong supporting cast, including Britt Cooper and Cierra Lamey, have rallied time and again in this tournament to survive nail-biters and advance.

Certainly not easy on a coach’s pounding heart.

“It’s getting better by the minute,” Woolley exhaled after Monday’s semifinal win. “It’s going to be an exciting night. Tony (Nakashima, assistant) and I won’t sleep much, but hopefully they (players) get some rest.”

King’s dagger vaulted UM Western into its first ever national title game. The Bulldogs get a crack at Oklahoma City University, another team that eliminated UMW two years ago. OKC went on to win that season’s national title.

The Bulldogs are driving to reverse that pattern, hoping to bounce the last two national champs and earn their first.