No. 15 Lights Take Down No. 12 LC-State, Move to 17-1 Overall - KFBB.com News, Sports and Weather

No. 15 Lights Take Down No. 12 LC-State, Move to 17-1 Overall

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HAVRE, Mont. – Picked as the NAIA Women's Basketball Game of the Week by the national office, the matchup between No. 12 Lewis-Clark State College and No. 15 MSU-Northern certainly played out that way as it took the full 40 minutes to decide a winner on Saturday night. In the end, the Skylights held off a late surge by the Warriors to win 63-61 in Frontier Conference action.

Helped by a hot-hand from the outside in the second half and clutch scoring by Caelyn Orlandi down the stretch, LC State erased a 12-point deficit to tie the game 57-57 with two minutes to go.

The Skylights, led by 19 points and 19 rebounds from 6-foot-5 Ajha Edwards, never stopped scoring in the final two minutes yet couldn't shake the Warriors and it was anyone's game in the final seconds.

“We had a chance to tie or win it and I'm disappointed that we didn't get it done, but I'm not disappointed in our effort,” said LCSC head coach Brian Orr.

With eight seconds to go, the Warriors inbounded the ball to Natahnee Spencer. The Lapwai, Idaho, product dribbled the length of the floor and hoisted a shot near the top of the key – creating what appeared to be quite a bit of contact – but the shot was off and no foul was called.

The win lifts Northern to 17-1 overall and 2-0 in league play, while the Warriors dip to 15-3 and 1-1.

The final play was just a sample of the excitement throughout the second half as both teams picked up the scoring pace after defense dictated play for the first 20 minutes of the game. The Warriors outshot the Skylights 58 percent to 55 percent after the break, but was outshot 44 to 29 percent in the opening half.

“Offensively we were horrible in the first half,” Orr said. “The biggest stat I think is that they had 16 assists and we had six. We didn't find our open teammate very well at all tonight.”

Trailing 28-22 at halftime, the Warriors used success on the outside to work their way back, hitting 5-of-6 attempts from deep with all of them seeming to come at just the right time.

Senior Kelli Rice cut the lead to 48-44 thanks to a trey at the 10-minute mark. Orlandi hit a 3-pointer as well and hers cut the lead to one, 53-52, with 3:40 remaining. And Spencer hit what was probably the biggest triple of the game, a swoosh from the corner to tie it at 57.

Facing the No. 1 scoring defense in the NAIA, senior Tanis Fuller worked her way to a team-high 16 points to go with six boards. Orlandi had 15 points, including multiple jumpers late in the game to keep the team in it, and Spencer finished with 10.

“She really kept us in the game,” Orr said of Orlandi. “And Kelli's three was huge. That got us right back in it. It felt like at that point that we were going to do this.”

Overall, Northern, which ranks second in the nation in shooting percentage, hit its season average of 49 percent while LCSC shot 42 percent. Northern was able to get to the foul line over twice as many times as LC State (32-15) and had an 18-11 scoring advantage there.

“Their defense is really solid,” said Orr. “They have the anchor in the middle just defending and protecting the rim. They don't give you any open looks.”

Natalee Faupel led the Skylights with 20 points. Jacey Thompson had 14 points and six assists. Edwards, named the NAIA's National Player of the Week on Tuesday, was 8-for-14 from the floor.

The Warriors trailed 31-27 in rebounds, but committed just nine turnovers to MSUN's 13 as they switched defenses often to try to trip up Northern's methodical attack which features a ton of set plays.

Fuller led the team with four steals, while McKenzie Heaslet, tasked with guarding Edwards all night, added eight rebounds and eight points.

“Overall, I thought we battled on the boards,” said Orr. “Ajha Edwards, she's tough. Last night she had 27 (points) and 16 (rebounds), and 19 and 19 tonight. And at the same time I thought McKenzie did a pretty good job on her. Edwards makes all those around her better. They're a solid team.”

With conference play just begun, the two teams will meet again in Lewiston on Feb. 5.

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