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Westminster basketball: Griffin women survive Montana Western for ninth-straight win

Alli Winters (center) dribbles the ball. Winters scored 16 points as No. 4 Westminster defeated Montana Western, 61-54, on Saturday for its ninth-straight win.
Alli Winters (center) dribbles the ball. Winters scored 16 points as No. 4 Westminster defeated Montana Western, 61-54, on Saturday for its ninth-straight win.
Bob McLellan

The No. 4 Westminster women’s basketball team held off a feisty Montana Western team, 61-54, in a Frontier Conference game Saturday afternoon to claim a ninth-straight victory.

Westminster moves to 19-2 overall this season as it looks for a ninth-straight 20-win season. The Griffins maintain their spot atop the Frontier Conference with a 9-1 mark in league games.

While Westminster led for nearly 14 minutes of the first half, the largest lead of the period was a seven-point advantage with 4:17 remaining in the period. The Griffins made 7-of-12 (58.3 percent) from beyond the arc before intermission, while Montana Western (10-16, 2-8 Frontier) also made seven threes on 15 attempts (46.7 percent).

“Western came out with some energy and they made some shots,” Westminster head coach Shelley Jarrard said of Saturday’s opponent. “Luckily we were able to match them on threes in the first half.”

Sierra Higheagle scored in the paint with 12:32 remaining in the second half to put Montana Western in front, 45-43. Westminster then scored the next six points — the longest run of the game by either team — and it never trailed again. Alli Winters capped the run with her fourth trey of the night to put her team ahead, 49-45, with just more than 10 minutes to play.

UMW tied the game at 51-51 on a hoop from Kaye Bignell with 4:24 on the clock, but consecutive layups from Shelby Ellsworth and Amanda Hacking pushed the lead back to four. The Griffins then made 6-of-6 at the foul line — two by Winters and four by Tia Pappas — in the final minute to seal the win.

Neither team found any rhythm from beyond the arc in the second half as both teams were 1-of-11 from deep after intermission. Westminster finished the game shooting 35.6 percent from the floor with 14 assists on 21 field goals. The Griffins also finished with a 39-36 edge in the glass despite being out-rebound, 22-14, in the first half.

“We talked keeping them off the glass at the offensive end during halftime and then allowed just two in the second half,” Jarrard said about her team’s effort in the second half.

Winters finished the game with 16 points behind 4-of-10 from beyond the arc. Her 13 total shot attempts matched a career high set earlier this season, and she added three assists and two rebounds. Amy Krommenhoek added 13 points — all in the first half — with four assists and three rebounds. Ellsworth had 11 points, five rebounds and three steals. Pappas and Hacking grabbed 12 rebounds apiece with six and seven offensive rebounds, respectively.

Higheagle and Bignell scored 15 points apiece for Montana Western. The Bulldogs also got nine assists — the most by a Griffin opponent this season — from Jenna Banks.

The Griffins will hold at least a half-game lead heading into two home games next week. The first of those games comes Thursday when Great Falls comes to town for a 5:30 p.m. MT tipoff.