KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Montana Tech Orediggers run has come to an end in the NAIA national quarterfinals, with a 76-58 defeat to Ottawa University (Ariz.) on Wednesday.
“We are proud of these guys’ effort, they fight to the very end. This group has come a long way and we are excited for what’s to come,” Montana Tech head coach Adam Hiatt said.
Tech’s lowest scoring output of the season came at the worst time, with a spot in the national semifinals on the line.
Despite poor shooting throughout the game, the Diggers led for a majority of the first half. They led by as many as six points with 3:19 to go before halftime.
Ottawa closed out the first half on an 11-4 scoring run and held a one-point lead at the break.
The Spirit’s momentum rolled into the second half, as they went on a 13-2 run to open up a 12-point lead with 14:28 remaining.
Tech cut the deficit to as few as six points with 6:19 left in the game but couldn’t get over the hump.
Overall, the Diggers shot 31.7% from the field and 19.2% from three-point range. Their shooting woes caught up to them in the second half when Ottawa started to knock down shots.
“We couldn’t get in a rhythm today. We weren’t able to generate any good offense. They (Ottawa) are a good team, so if you don’t score consistently, at some point they will make shots and they did,” Hiatt said.
In the second half, the Spirit shot 50% from the field and 45.5% from behind the three-point line.
Ottawa extended the lead to 20 points in the final minute of the game. Josiah De’laCerda led all scorers with 20 points for the Spirit. Kolten Hitt added 17 points and nailed three shots from behind the arc.
For Tech, Camdyn LaRance led the team with 16 points and Asa Williams tallied 15 points and seven rebounds.
In the end, it was a truly historic season for the Diggers.
They won both the regular season and tournament titles in the Frontier Conference, and won more national tournament games than the program had won in its existence.
After losing the Frontier Conference Player of the Year, Caleb Bellach, to a season-ending injury in the first minute of the opening round, Tech rattled off three wins to make the national quarterfinals.
“I’m proud of the guys, we all stepped up without our best player. We made a run and did whatever we could do to make it happen. We left it all on the floor,” sophomore guard Camdyn LaRance said.
Tech’s season ends with a 29-5 record, the most wins in program history. The team had won 10 consecutive games prior to the loss against Ottawa.
The program has made significant progress during the last few years and will look to build off of this tournament experience next season.
“We are certainly going to look back and be proud of everything that we’ve accomplished. We were able to take these guys into another historic season. Coming off of last year’s historic run and being able to improve on that, it is pretty special,” Hiatt said.