UMW News Bureau
There was no stopping the red-hot Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears in last night’s Frontier Conference Championship, held in Montana Western’s Straugh Gymnasium.
The 68-52 win was the fifth straight for the Bears and their third straight on the road. They took down the third seed, Westminster, 75-68 in the first round and top-seeded Lewis-Clark State 79-72 in the semi-finals.
Rocky opened the game with a Matt Strickland three-pointer and quickly held a 13-6 lead. Montana Western went on their own run to tie it up at 13 on a Kris Collins long ball. Rocky held a slight lead until Collins got a steal and sank a pull-up three at the 8:01 mark.
A Jordan Overstreet steal and basket put the Bulldogs up 24-21. The three-point lead would turn out to be their best of the night. After keeping it close until the 4:21 mark, Rocky took a 10-2 run into halftime to hold a 36-28 lead.
The second half started with two Rocky baskets followed by a Kris Castro three that put the Bulldogs within nine. From there it was all Rocky Mountain. The Bears would increase their lead to as much as 18 while never dropping it into single digits. Rocky was crowned Frontier Conference Champions with a 68-52 victory.
Montana Western shot a dismal 33 percent (22-67) from the field, 19 percent (6-32) behind the arc and 33 percent (2-6) from the free throw line. Rocky fared much better with their 52 percent (28-54) on field goals, 37 percent (7-19) on threes and a perfect five of five from the charity stripe.
Overstreet was the only Bulldog to reach double figures with his 15 points off the bench. Tyler Miller, Maazin Butler and Collins each chipped in eight. Vince Turk pulled down seven rebounds, Castro had three steals and Gabe Rucker and Miller had five assists apiece.
Rocky was led by Don Parham with 15 points, six steals and six assists. Malachi Roberts put up 18 points while Joel Barndt had 11 to go along with eight rebounds.
The win earns Rocky (21-12) an automatic berth to the NAIA national tournament, which will be held March 13-19, in Kansas City, Mo. The Bulldogs (22-9) will have to wait until tonight to find out if they will receive an at-large bid.
The NAIA is providing a free live selection show with graphics to reveal the 32-team bracket for the 76th Annual Buffalo Funds-NAIA Division I Men's Basketball National Championship. The men's bracket will be announced immediately after the women's at approximately 7:15 p.m. on www.NAIA.org.