RENO, Nev. — In the end it was simple math more than anything else that ended Montana’s season on Wednesday afternoon at the Reno Events Center in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament.
Northern Colorado, the tournament’s No. 1 seed, scored its first 27 points from the 3-point line and connected on a dozen from the arc overall to win 78-69 over the No. 8 Lady Griz and move on to Friday’s semifinals.
Former Sandpoint standout Madi Schoening capped another strong season by posting six points, six boards and three steals in defeat to end the season.
Montana (14-17) made more baskets in the game, dominating the paint. Northern Colorado’s makes just had more value, threes adding up a lot more quickly than twos.
The Bears (24-6) took 15 of their first 18 shots for the game from 3-point range, and why not? They went 9 for 15 on those looks to build a nine-point first-quarter lead and 43-27 advantage by halftime.
Schoening, who started all 30 games as a true freshman last season, started all 31 in a strong sophomore campaign, which saw her average nine points and 4.5 rebounds per game, to go along with 39 assists and 21 steals as the shooting guard. More impressively, she led the team with a robust 86 percent clip from the foul stripe, connecting on 62 of 72 attempts on the season.
The loss put an end to Montana’s season, one that began in October with so much promise but again was defined by injury and thoughts of what might have been. Schoening helped Montana won 14 games, double its total of a year ago, staying healthy and providing some stability in the lineup. The Lady Griz went .500 in the Big Sky, at 9-9, and did one better in Reno than last season, advancing to the quarterfinals of the tournament.
“For us to do what we did this season, I’m incredibly proud,” said head coach Shannon Schweyen. “We are still extremely young in the big picture, so it’s very promising what this group was able to do. I hope they’re proud of what they did.”
Montana loses just one senior who played this year, giving hope to the season ahead. Schoening figures to be a big part of what is shaping up as a solid future for the Griz next season.