UMW women fighting for second

M.P. Regan
Wednesday, February 17, 2021

The University of Montana Western women’s basketball team last weekend didn’t quite get done what it needed to get done to set up a dramatic Frontier Conference-deciding showdown in Dillon against rivals Carroll College to close out the regular season this coming weekend.

But it turned out Carroll didn’t even have to do what it had to do, due to its games last weekend getting canceled by COVID-19 concerns.

And in Monday’s Frontier Conference Winter Sports Update, the league affirmed that with how COVID cancellations will unbalance the total number of games played by each of its teams this year, the league’s regular-season championship in women’s basketball would be awarded to the team with the highest conference winning percentage when regular-season play wraps up Sunday.

So, even though they currently boast the highest number of wins in the league, the Bulldogs (12-5 in the Frontier Conference for a .706 winning percentage) will have to content themselves with battling newly-minted regular-season champions Carroll (11-1, and a now insurmountable .917 winning percentage) this weekend in a doubleheader—not for the regular season conference title, but for the ability to hold onto second place.

The Bulldogs will be looking to gain the next-best seeding behind Carroll and ahead of the University of Providence (6-4 .600 winning percentage), which UMW will face this evening.

That seeding could prove critical in the Frontier Conference tourney set to begin Feb. 25, with the top two seeds gaining first-round byes and homecourt advantage in the second round.

Western could have conceivably overtaken Carroll in the winning percentage metric by the end of the regular season on Sunday had the Bulldogs not dropped their game last Sunday to Montana State University–Northern in the second installment of a weekend doubleheader in Havre.

And up until the final quarter of that second game, it sure looked like Western would secure a sweep.

The Bulldogs blew out their hosts Saturday, storming out to an 18-point halftime lead on the way to the 75-58 eclipsing of the Northern Lights.

Western sustained its ad vantage Sunday on the Hi-Line, where the visitors held a 12-point lead heading into the final 1:05 of the third quarter.

But a 3-point shot from the right wing by MSUN’s L’Tia Lawrence ignited a 25-14 Light run that climaxed with the hosts gaining their first lead of the second half on a short shot by Sydney Holvde with 34 seconds remaining in the game—50 seconds after Lawrence had bullseyed another bomb from around the same spot she’d launched in the third-quarter.

Western tied the game, 70-70, on a Brynley Fitzgerald free throw with 24 seconds left in the contest.

But 15 seconds later, Frontier Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week Tiara Gilham hit the short game-winner for Northern.

Fitzgerald led Western with 21 points, 7 rebounds and 4 assists in the contest, a day after Paige Holmes paced a balanced UMW scoring attack with 14 points and 7 rebounds.

See next week’s Dillon Tribune to find out how the UMW women’s basketball team fared over the final week of its regular season—and how it’s bracket sets up for the Frontier Conference tourney set to start Feb. 25.