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WOMEN'S BASKETBALL: UND continues late-season surge with win against Montana State

Leah Szabla's celebration time at The Betty was cut a little short. She required two stitches to close a gash on her lip -- the result of a physical, emotional and wildly entertaining UND 77-76 win over Montana State on Friday before 1,671 fans.

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UND's Kelsey Knox passes the ball as Montana State's Lindsay Stockton, left, and Peyton Ferris defend. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Leah Szabla’s celebration time at The Betty was cut a little short. She required two stitches to close a gash on her lip -- the result of a physical, emotional and wildly entertaining UND 77-76 win over Montana State on Friday before 1,671 fans.

While UND players celebrated their win and last regular-season appearance at home, Szabla went to the training room for stitches and later returned with an ice pack pressed against her lip. It was that kind of game; one, however, that left UND as the hottest team heading into next week’s Big Sky Conference postseason tournament in Reno, Nev.

UND finished the regular season at 13-5 in the Big Sky and 17-12 overall. The Fighting Hawks will take the No. 4 seed into next week’s tournament. But they’ll be the hottest team entering the event as they’ve now won 12 of their past 13 games.

“This is March,” said Szabla, who scored a game-high 20 points. “This is when the madness comes out.”

And it was a maddening finish.

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UND trailed by 11 points in the third quarter; then scrapped its way to a 64-61 lead on back-to-back baskets from Szabla and Jill Morton with 4:05 to play.

The Hawks, who also received 16 points from Makailah Dyer, eventually led 74-68 with 42 seconds to go. Montana State, however, had one final push remaining. Montana State’s Delany Junkermier hit two deep 3-pointers nine seconds apart to leave the Bobcats trailing 77-76.

Szabla and Mia Loyd then missed three straight free-throw attempts with under 10 seconds to play, giving the Bobcats (14-4, 21-8) a final chance to celebrate an outright Big Sky regular-season title.

Montana State’s Jasmine Hommes, taking a pass from Lindsay Stockton in the lane, had a great look at the rim but her shot rimmed out with a second to go, giving UND the win.

“It would have been nice had I made more free throws down the stretch so we wouldn’t have been in that situation,” added Szabla. “We can’t leave it a one-point game and give the other team a chance.”

Montana State trailed much of the first half but gained control by getting to the line in the second quarter, making 15 of 16 free throws. That led to a 41-32 lead at the break.

“We were stronger with the ball in the second half,” said UND coach Travis Brewster. “We were more aggressive with our finishes at the hoop. We moved the basketball better, too. In the first half, we didn’t have a flow as to how we were playing, yet we were still in the game.”

The game took a UND twist late in the third quarter. Samantha Roscoe (14 points) hit a half-court shot at the buzzer that tied the game at 55-55.

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“It just happened,” said Roscoe of her shot, which touched only net.

The Bobcats, led by Peyton Ferris’ 17 points, scored the first four points of the fourth quarter but Lexi Klabo, Kelsey Knox and Szabla combined for seven of the game’s next nine points to go up 62-61.

“It was a typical UND-Montana State game,” added Brewster. “There were things we handled well and things we didn’t handle well. There were things they handled well and things they didn’t handle well.”

But UND -- again -- found another way to pull out a game in the closing minutes.

The game had no bearing on UND’s seeding for next week’s tournament. The Hawks were locked into the No. 4 seed regardless of the outcome.

“We didn’t have anything to lose in this game,” said Szabla. “But we wanted to send a message to the rest of our conference that we’re here and ready to go.”


 

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Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.


He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.



He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.



Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or wnelson@gfherald.com.
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