Rocky Mountain 63, Univ. of Great Falls 60.
Univ. of Great Falls 75, Rocky Mountain 71.
Another 4th Quarter Lead Slips Away for Lady Argos
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – A missed free throw and a blocked buzzer beater prevented Lady Argo basketball from ending a 10-game losing streak. UGF let another fourth quarter lead slip away, losing to Rocky Mountain College 63-60.
UGF held a slim lead heading into the fourth quarter, but continued its habit of losing late leads. Less than three minutes into the period, a 5-point Lady Argo lead was negated, with one minute left, the Battlin' Bears held a 61-55 advantage.
That margin closed to 4 points with a mid-range jumper from freshman Jenna Randich and then a steal and transition layup from senior Nneka Nnadi brought the score within two.
The Lady Argos got another big stop on the defensive end, and then, with a chance to tie or take the least, Nnadi got fouled and went to the free-throw line for two shots with 36 second left. The senior hit the first, but missed the second, forcing UGF to foul Rocky with 11 seconds left. RMC made both of the ensuing free throws, and a buzzer beating attempt to tie the game was blocked to finalize the result.
A quick start for UGF began the night with beacon of hope for a Lady Argo victory. Junior guard Stephanie McDonagh and senior guard Nneka Nnadi were efficient and effective on the offensive end to start the game. The two combined for 12 of UGF’s first 16 points and led the team to an early 9-point lead.
While UGF’s duo dominated the first five minutes of play, Rocky dominated the second five minutes. The Battlin’ Bears methodically worked away the Lady Argo lead, and finished the quarter up 17-16.
Both offenses sputtered through the second quarter, combining for just nine made field goals, but a slightly better shooter percentage in the period for RMC, meant a 3-point lead for the Battlin’ Bears at the end of the first half.
If not for the efforts of senior Kalani Ulufale, that gap could have been much wider. The center came off the bench to score 6 of UGF’s 10 points in the second quarter, using her strength, and ability to finish through traffic to become the team’s only real scoring threat in those 10 minutes.
McDonagh and Nnadi again found a rhythm in the third quarter, combining for 10 points, all of which came in first six minutes of the period. Their efforts returned the lead to UGF’s side, and from there, senior guard Darah Huertas-Vining took over.
In the final few minutes of the period, Huertas-Vining hit two timely 3-point shots and UGF’s defense tightened up to give the Lady Argos a 45-40 lead heading into the final period.
That final period, however, has been a specter of sorts for UGF during conference play and it once again haunted the Lady Argos against the Battlin’ Bears.
Over a third of Rocky Mountain’s turnovers occurred in the third quarter, and the Battlin’ Bears shot 30 percent from the field, while UGF shot 41 percent. All of those good things went away, in the fourth. UGF’s shooting percentage dropped to 31 in the final period, while Rocky’s skyrocketed to 64.
McDonagh scored 4 more points in the fourth quarter to give her a game high of 17 points. She was also game’s leading rebounder, collecting her fifth double-double of the season with 10 boards. To go along with that, she also led UGF with 3 steals.
Right behind her in terms of scoring was Nnadi, who finished with 16, to go along with 7 rebounds, 2 assists, and 2 steals. Huertas-Vining finished with 10 points, and 3 assists.
A loss in the penultimate game of the season brings UGF’s season record to 12-16 (1-16) with an 11-game losing streak. The Lady Argos will try to end the season on a high note, finishing the year at home against Montana Western on Saturday, February 25 at 5:30 p.m. for Senior Night.
Argo Seniors Show Up Big in 75-71 UGF Win vs Rocky Mountain
GREAT FALLS, Mont. – The best 35 minutes of team basketball the Argos have played all year led the team to its fourth conference win of the season, 75-71 over Rocky Mountain College. Five different UGF players scored 9 or more points, and the team’s 24 assists was the third highest total for the team in any game this season, and by far the highest in Frontier Conference play.
“The difference tonight was we shared the basketball,” UGF Head Coach Anthony Owens. “They relied on each other to score, instead of an individual trying to take over the game.”
Three seniors made sure UGF got off on the right foot to start the team’s second to last game of the regular season. The first points of game came from a 3-pointer by senior guard Sigman Farmer III and fellow seniors Isaac Howard and John Makkar scored next to put UGF up by three through the first four minutes of play.
UGF held that small lead for a few more minutes, but the four made threes from the Battlin’ Bears in just over two minutes, flipped margin 8 points in RMC’s favor.
A few strong points in the paint, an area that the Argos would dominate all night, from Makkar and Farmer steadied the ship, and then a made three from junior guard Jared Schultz put UGF on a long-range run of its own.
Three different Argos each sank a shot from distance in the final four and a half minutes to give UGF a 35-29 lead by the end of the first half.
Farmer played his best half of basketball in months after fighting through a series of nagging injuries. The senior scored all 10 of his points in the first period, shooting 4-7 from the field including 2-2 from three. He also pulled down 5 rebounds and had 4 assists in the first half.
He held just a slight lead over Makkar for the most encouraging effort in the half. Makkar shot 3-4 from the field through the first 20 minutes with 6 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, and a block.
While most of Farmer’s impact on the game was spent as the team’s entered the locker room for their mid-game break, Makkar was far from done. The muscular, 6-8 forward bullied the Battlin’ Bears in the paint all night long, while also playing one of the most cerebral games of his career.
“The whole time, Rocky was playing zone, so I was really looking for my teammates first with the skip pass or on the backside. When no one was open I looked for my shot, and luckily I was able to make those,” Makkar said.
He, Howard, and freshman guard Quesley-Marie Noresias started UGF on an almost unprecedented offensive effort in the second half. In the first five minutes of the out of the locker room, the three teammates combined for 15 points and 2 steals, and build UGF’s lead into double-digits.
By the end of that run, Noresias was one point shy of score 10 or more points for the fifth time on the year, by a hard fall through contact in the paint sent him to the bench for the rest of the night.
His absence didn’t slow down the Argos, however with juniors Schultz and Matthew Brooks-McGregor hitting three straight shots for UGF and with 6:22 left in the game, UGF led by 17.
Over the next six and a half minutes, Rocky went on a steady rally. Playing onto the hands of the Battlin’ Bears, both literally and figuratively were five UGF turnovers from the 6:22 mark to 2:24 mark. That run of sloppy play narrowed UGF’s lead to 8 points and then 5 straight points from RMC’s Zach Hinton made it a one score game.
Further aiding Rocky’s comeback attempt were two stunning missed free throws on the front end of one-and-ones in the final minute from UGF’s Sergio Berkley. The junior ranks 32nd in NAIA Division I in free throw percentage, shooting over 80 percent from the charity stripe on the year.
Despite those missed free throws, UGF’s defense just barely held, and finally, with four seconds left, Howard sank a free throw to put the game out of reach at 75-71.
The three seniors, Howard, Makkar, and Farmer, combined for 36 of UGF’s 75 points, 11 of the team’s 24 assists, and 5 of the team’s 8 steals.
Farmer’s stat line was much the same as it was when the half ended, but Makkar’s point total went from 6 to 14 by game’s end, which tied a season high. The other game that the senior scored 14, was another of UGF’s four conference wins.
Isaac Howard scored 10 of his 12 points in the second half, while Schultz 7 of his 10 in the first.
UGF shot a blistering 76 percent from the field in the second, including 3-5 from 3-point range.
The win is a momentum building for the Argos who are now one game away from the Frontier Conference playoffs. UGF has already clinched a playoff berth with a record of 12-16 (4-13) and will enter the tournament as 6-seed, slated to play Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston, Idaho on Wednesday, March 1.
“Any time you can win a game and get the guys’ confidence up, it’s pretty big,” UGF Head Coach Anthony Owens said. “Shots become easier to make, and they make less mistakes. We won this one, and hopefully we’ll win tomorrow night as well.”
Before heading to the playoffs UGF has one more regular season game, a Saturday, February 25 home game against Montana Western at 7:30 p.m. The game will also be Senior Night for UGF.
Courtesy UGF Sports Information