Call it a coming-of-age win for the Montana women's basketball team.
Sacramento State hit a buzzer-beating 3-point shot at the end of regulation to force overtime, but the Lady Griz were not to be denied Thursday. They used a pair of critical free throws by McKenzie Johnston and a big defensive rebound by Gabi Harrington in the final 13 seconds of the second OT in emerging with an 88-86 win at The Nest in Sacramento, California.
With the victory, Montana moved to 3-0 in Big Sky Conference play and 8-4 overall. The Lady Griz snapped a string of five straight losses at The Nest and stretched their current win streak to four games.
"Just happy we came out on top of this. What a battle by the girls," UM coach Shannon Schweyen told KMPT radio. "They got up on us big to start with, but the girls kept battling and battling. I'm just incredibly proud of them."
Harrington finished with a team-high 18 points, followed by Jace Henderson and Katie Mayhue each with 17 and Johnston with 16. Harrington and Henderson also grabbed 10 rebounds apiece, giving them both a double-double for the second game in a row.
Sac State jumped to an 11-point lead late in the first quarter and Montana suffered a stroke of bad luck when Johnston left the game with a bloody nose. She sat out the remainder of the first half but her team stayed strong mentally and trailed by just four at intermission.
Montana looked to be well on its way to a victory when Johnston, wearing a mask, made a layup to put her team up 67-63 with 24 ticks left in the fourth quarter. Sac State answered with a bucket, then fouled Johnston, who made one of two free throws to make the score 68-65.
That set the stage for Sarah Abney's long, dramatic 3-point shot at the end of regulation, giving the hosts new life.
"Our girl thought she (Abney) was possibly inside the line and we told our girls to foul because we had fouls to give," Schweyen noted. "We just ended up having to do it the tough way in double overtime."
Sac State had a chance to win at the end of the first overtime after Montana turned the ball over with 6 ticks left and the score tied at 78-78. However, Gabi Bade missed a 3-point shot that would have won it for the Hornets.
Schweyen praised the Lady Griz for a total team effort.
"Sac here at home is always tough," Schweyen said. "Carmen Gfeller was huge for us. She's got such pretty footwork and a nice high load and knocked down those shots for a big lift off the bench. Katie (Mayhue) did great I thought with some big threes. And Gabi (Harrington's) rebounding. That's the reason she's on the floor for 43 minutes."