The determined 13th-ranked Bulldogs outscored the third-ranked Flames 52-39 in the second 20 minutes and advanced to the Elite Eight with the 83-73 victory.
Coach Tommy Brown pointed directly at a surge of the Bulldogs in the final minutes of the first half as being a key factor in his club’s loss. The Flames were up by eight points with 5:14 remaining in the opening frame, but Montana Western (24-9) closed the gap to 34-31 at the half.
“You’ve got to give Montana Western a ton of credit,” said coach Brown. “They executed well, and they are a tough team and can really shoot it. We couldn’t get any key stops. They beat us to some rebounds, and we didn’t rotate well late in the game.”
Behind the 11 points-scoring of Duran Blue and Chase Dunn in the first half, the Flames got off to a quick start. In the second half, Blue was held to only four points and Dunn to six. Both still finished as their team’s leading scorers, Dunn (17) and Blue (15). The battle was tied nine times, and there were 11 lead changes.
The Bulldogs countered with a well-balanced attack and placed four players in double-figure scoring. Jordan Overstreet had 13 of his 14 points in the second-half rally, while Kris Castro also tallied 14 and grabbed seven rebounds. Kris Collins and Maazin Butler also gave the Flames problems with 13 markers apiece.
“I thought we were in control in the first half, then we made a couple of mistakes, and they really out played us in the second half,” noted the coach. “They started to drive the ball in the second half, and that has been our Achilles heel all year in guarding off the dribble.”
Will Barnes and Jamorris Gaines tallied 14 points apiece for Lee. Gaines had nine rebounds, and Barnes had five. Corey Billingsley came off the bench to score five points and collect five rebounds. However, the smaller Montana team out-rebounded Lee 40-34. The Flames shot a decent percentage from the field (42 percent) and made 17-of-19 3-pointers (37 percent). They struggled somewhat from the line, converting 16-of-24.
The Bulldogs shot a sizzling 59 percent overall in the second 20 minutes and finished with a 48 percent overall total from the field. They made just 9-of-27 treys and 18-of-26 charity tosses. The Flames were guilty of 16 turnovers but forced Montana Wesleyan into 18 floor mistakes.
“I’m sorry we couldn’t get it done,” pointed out Brown. “We didn’t play well today for whatever reason. I thought we were ready. I thought we were well prepared. This was a team we thought could come out here and win three or four games, but that just was not to be.”