Weber State men’s basketball fell to the Montana State Bobcats in the final ten minutes of the Big Sky Conference tournament semifinals on March 11.
The Wildcats started the tournament on March 10 after a first round bye before taking on familiar foe, the University of Montana.
The No. 5 Grizzlies started off hot after establishing a 12–2 lead earlier into the first half. The all-too-familiar feeling of Weber State basketball falling to the University of Montana was enough for the ‘Cats to snap Montana’s scoring run. Headed into this matchup, the ‘Cats were 1–7 in their last eight tournament games against the Griz.
Zahir Porter gave the ‘Cats their first lead of the night 20–19 and Weber State didn’t look back. By the end of the first half, WSU led the Grizzlies 30–25.
By halftime, Weber State out-rebounded U of M 15–8.
The Wildcats looked to further establish their lead in the second half and did just that. Weber State went on a 17–1 run in the first six minutes of the half. This included WSU making 10 of their 11 attempted shots.
Dillon Jones, Dontay Bassett, Koby McEwen, JJ Overton and Porter had their share of points in just over the first 10 minutes of the second half.
After the Wildcats’ scoring run, WSU dug a 20-point deficit that the Grizzlies weren’t able to pull themselves out of.
With 11 minutes left and a score of 51–31, the Grizzlies collected 18 of their 31 points from the foul line in the second half.
Seikou Sisoho Jawara had a quiet first night of play after making his first basket of the night with two minutes remaining on the clock and that helped secure the Wildcats’ 68–56 win.
Before the clock could run out, Bassett fouled out for the ‘Cats, and Brandon Whitney was out for the Griz.
Whitney, Robby Beasley and Derrick Carter-Hollinger all collected 12 points for the night, and Josh Bannan was close behind with 11 points.
“Beasley and Bannan. Don’t let them beat us, simple as that,” McEwen said.
Jones led the ‘Cats with 23 points, 11 rebounds and two 3-pointers. McEwen had 17 points, and Overton had 10.
The following night, the No. 4 ‘Cats were set to take on No. 1 Montana State.
Wanting to establish an early lead, the ‘Cats found their answer in Bassett, who put the first seven points of the day on the board and the ‘Cats didn’t trail until 7 minutes remaining in the second half.
Despite having an off night the game prior, Sisoho Jawara was making key plays in the first half. A 3-pointer pushed the ‘Cats to 20–13.
Xavier Bishop seemed to be the only hope for the Bobcats in the first half after making three 3-pointers.
McEwen answered back with a three of his own and kept the Wildcats’ lead.
A few minutes later, McEwen found the opportunity for a dunk after stealing the ball from MSU, but would later get called with a technical foul.
While hanging from the rim with his feet in the air, McEwen nailed Bishop in the face with his foot.
After a review, the refs called the foul and RaeQuan Battle was called to make the two free throws. Battle pushed MSU to 25–21 with 8:26 remaining in the first half.
After trading off a few baskets from both sides, MSU was able to cut the lead down to 32–31, but McEwen got a deep 3 that further established a 37–31 halftime lead. The Wildcats were 58% for shooting by half time.
Montana State headed into the second half with comeback hopes and did just that. Amin Adamu opened up the half with the first four points, and Great Osobor and Sam Lecholat contributed to the Bobcats’ efforts.
Adamu got as close as 43–41, but the Wildcats went on to 5-point scoring run and capitalized to a 48–41 lead.
Headed into the midway point of the second half, both teams went back and forth on buckets, and MSU eventually took their first lead of the game with 7:34 remaining.
After going back and forth, Battle was fouled after a 3-point attempt and sank three free-throw attempts to give MSU the advantage at 62–60.
The clock started to count down, and MSU had the 68–66 advantage when Battle was fouled. They made one of the two attempts before McEwen got the ball and ran up court to try and make the game tying three with 14.5 seconds left.
“I’ve seen him through his entire career, him make that shot so many times,” MSU head coach Danny Sprinkle said. “The basketball gods were with us tonight.”
McEwen’s shot hit the back rim, but Dyson Koehler’s hand got enough momentum to swat the ball out to Jones. With no one around, Jones made the final attempt to tie the game and missed the shot.
The Bobcats’ bench swarmed the court as Jones, McEwen and Bassett laid themselves out on the court in heartbreak. The final score of the game was 69–66.
“I’m really proud of our kids,” head coach Randy Rahe said. “I’m proud of our team; I love them to death. They’ve given us their heart and soul all season long and it hurts. It really hurts.”
Jones led the squad with 18 points and nine rebounds, and McEwen collected 17 points and led with nine free throws.
Montana State went on to win the tournament after a 87–66 win against Northern Colorado.