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Montana Lady Griz fall on the road at Portland State as Big Sky race tightens

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Posted at 11:54 PM, Feb 23, 2023

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

PORTLAND, Ore. — Portland State hit a pair of 3-pointers in the final three seconds of regulation to force overtime, then hit the game-winning 3-pointer in the final 30 seconds of extra time to pull off a 74-72 comeback win over Montana on Thursday night at Viking Pavilion in Portland.

After falling behind 10-4 early on, the Lady Griz took over and held the lead for nearly 33 minutes until some late-game heroics by the Vikings tied the game at the end of regulation.

Montana led by 11 points in the second quarter, by 12 in the third but never could shake free of Portland State, which won its sixth straight game at home.

The Lady Griz went up 62-54 with 3:40 to go on a basket by Carmen Gfeller, who would finish with 19 points and seven rebounds.

That’s when Montana’s looseness on the defense glass proved costly.

A Portland State offensive rebound led to two free throws. The lead was down to six. Next possession: Another offensive rebound, two more second-chance points. The lead was down to four.

The Vikings pulled within two, 62-60, with 19 seconds left, Gina Marxen hit two free throws with 11.6 seconds remaining to put Montana back up four, 64-60.

The Lady Griz forced a miss on a 3-pointer and that should have been the game, but another offensive rebound led to a second-chance look from the arc. This one was good with 2.9 seconds left.

Marxen again hit two free throws with 2.0 seconds on the clock to put her team up three.

Montana had a foul to give on Portland State’s inbound from in front of its own bench, but the Lady Griz did not get to Esmeralda Morales in time.

She flipped the ball back to the inbounder and Century McCartney banked in just her 13th 3-pointer of the season at the buzzer.

Credit Portland State for hitting the shots, but the game was there for Montana to win. The Lady Griz just didn’t grab it.

“I’m not into making excuses,” said Lady Griz coach Brian Holsinger, whose team went through a draining travel experience just to make it to the gym on Thursday night. “We didn’t deserve to win. They deserved to win. We just don’t do things right enough. It’s very simple.”

Portland State grabbed 11 offensive rebounds in the second half. They led to 14 second-chance points and that allowed the Vikings to hang around just enough to force overtime.

“Our rebounding in the second half was pretty poor,” said Holsinger. “They got too many second-chance points in the second half just by us not giving effort and grabbing the ball. It’s been an issue all year and it cost us tonight. I’m at a loss for words for how to get them to do it.”

The end-of-regulation sequence had Morales get the inbounds pass but before two Lady Griz defenders could foul her, she got rid of the ball to McCartney.

A foul would have taken just a bit more time off the clock and forced Portland State to be even faster on the ensuing inbound play. It didn’t work out that way.

“We wanted to foul. We had a foul to give and we didn’t foul,” said Holsinger. “It’s an execution thing. You’ve got to do what you’re supposed to do at the time.”

Gfeller gave the Lady Griz a 72-70 lead with 41.9 seconds left in overtime, but that would be Montana’s only lead of the extra session.

Morales hit a huge 3-pointer at the other end with 25 seconds left, and with the chance to take the lead, Montana turned the ball over.

Morales hit one of two free throws with four seconds left to give her 27 points for the game and her team the final margin, 74-72.

Montana got the ball to Gfeller for a last-second shot, but her 12-footer was off the mark.

It was Montana’s fourth Big Sky loss by one or two points. The Lady Griz’ last three league losses have come by a total of five points.

Dani Bartsch had her third career double-double, totaling a career-high 16 points and 16 rebounds, which was one off her career high.

Marxen hit four 3-pointers and scored 16 points. Sammy Fatkin had 10 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals.

The loss proved costly in the Big Sky standings. Montana (9-7 BSC) is now tied for fourth with Eastern Washington (9-7 BSC) and one game ahead of Portland State (8-8 BSC) and Idaho (8-8 BSC) as teams try to avoid a bottom-four finish.

One of those four teams will be playing on opening day in Boise.

Things tightened up at the top of the standings as well, with Sacramento State (11-5 BSC) pulling even with Northern Arizona (11-5 BSC) for second. Both teams are one game behind leader Montana State (12-4 BSC).

Montana will play at Sacramento State on Saturday. The Hornets won their fourth straight game Thursday, defeating Montana State at The Nest 82-73.

Montana State will play at Portland State on Saturday, Idaho State will play at Eastern Washington and Weber State will play at Idaho.

Montana will wrap up the regular season hosting Idaho on Monday night at 7 p.m.