By Ryan Divish/Havre Daily News Sports Editoremail@example.com
BUTTE - The Lewis-Clark State Warriors may have been the third seed coming into Thursday's first round of the Frontier Conference Men's Tournament, but they still played like they were the defending champions.
LC played probably its best basketball of the season en route to a 89-62 win over the Montana State University-Northern Lights in first-round tournament action in the Maroon Activity Center.
"That is the best I've seen them play this season," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "If they play like that for the rest of the tournament, their opponents are going to have their hands full."
The game was almost over before it started as the Warriors jumped out to an early lead thanks to some scoring from an unlikely source.
Light-scoring point guard Spencer Bishop scored nine points in the first half, almost more than his average, to jump-start the Warriors.
LC also got a big lift from shooting guard Joey Ray, who came off the bench to score 10 first-half points, including three 3-pointers. Ray sat out last weekend with a bad foot.
"Obviously having a healthy Joey Ray made a difference," said Lewis-Clark head coach George Pfeiffer. "He gives us one more weapon to pick from."
One very good weapon. With Bishop and Ray hitting from long range, Huse knew it could be the start of a long night.
"We knew coming in that we needed them to miss some shots from the outside," Huse said. "Unfortunately, they didn't miss from the outside."
Once the Warriors started hitting from the outside, it opened up things on the inside for LC's superior inside game.
"Their shooting forced us to extend our defense and really spread us out," Huse said. "Once they did that, they started driving past us and every one of their players are capable of doing that."
With everything clicking, the Warriors rolled to a 20-point lead late in the first half.
Northern tried to stay in the game, but turnovers were a problem. The Lights committed 17 turnovers in the first half, which proved costly.
"We didn't play that bad," Huse said. "But we committed way too many turnovers that led to some easy baskets for them. We're not the type of team that can get down in double digits and just come back."
Danny Allen's jump shot at the buzzer gave LC a 49-24 lead at halftime.
"Obviously, that was not the start we were looking for," Huse said. "LC came out very focused early and we made some mistakes early that hurt us."
Unfortunately, things only got marginally better for the Lights in the second half.
Northern made things respectable behind the play of freshmen Cody Gillespie and Cory Brothers. The duo combined for 22 points in the second half and showed flashes of the future for the Lights.
Gillespie led Northern with 16 points, while Brothers finished with 14. Junior Jordan Matthews chipped in with 10 points in the loss.
"There is something to build off of here even in the loss," Huse said. "We return a good core of kids that got some good experience. I hope they have learned from these game situations. This should certainly offer some motivation for next year."
LC had five players in double figures led by Ray's 16 points on 5-8 3-point shooting. John Moore and Jared Tikker scored 14 points each, while Bishop finished with 13 and Martin Brothers chipped in with 10 points.
"We played with great enthusiasm and a lot of swagger tonight," Pfeiffer said. "We played really unselfishly and we were making the extra pass. It showed with all of our easy shots."
Northern finished the season with a 12-18 record overall. But many people, including Pfeiffer, believe it's a misleading number, with all the tough losses.
"Coach Huse does a tremendous job," Pfeiffer said. "They've had their struggles this season, but his players still play their butts off, which is a credit to them and him. He's done a tremendous job in some adverse conditions."
Lewis-Clark St. 89, MSU-Northern 62
MSU-NORTHERN (3-12, 12-18)
Reid Stovall 0-0 0-0 0; Marcus Wilson 4-7 0-0 8;
Jordan Matthews 3-6 4-7 10; Landen Grant 0-1 0-0 0;
Leo Bullchild 1-2 0-0 3; Cory Brothers 4-11 4-7 14;
Antonio Jordan 0-3 3-4 3; Cody Gillespie 4-5 4-4 16;
Ed Lowe 0-2 2-2 2; Tim Hutchins 3-3 0-0 6; Pathe
Yatera 0-0 0-0 0. Totals: 19-40 17-24 62.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (11-4, 23-8)
John Moore 6-9 2-2 14; Martin Brothers 3-4 4-5 10;
Chris Pitts 3-5 0-0 6; Danny Allen 2-7 5-6 9; Spencer
Bishop 4-5 3-4 13; Joey Ray 5-8 1-2 16; Justin Fraser
1-3 0-0 2; Justin Fraser 1-3 0-0 2; James Idoko 1-7
3-4 5; Jared Tikker 7-8 0-0 14. Totals: 32-56 18-23
Halftime Score: LCSC 49, MSU-N 24. 3-point goals: 7-15 (Bullchild 1-2, Brothers 2-5, Jordan 0-2,
Gillespie 4-5, Lowe 0-1); LCSC 7-17 (Allen 0-4, Bishop
2-3, Ray 5-8, Fraser 0-1, Tikker 0-1). Rebounds: MSU-N
21 (Wilson 4); LCSC 31 (Idoko 10, Brothers 7).
Assists: MSU-N 10 (Stovall 3); LCSC 20 (Bishop 6).
Tunovers: MSU-N 24, LCSC 15. Team Fouls: MSU-N 21, LCSC 23. Fouled out - none. Technical Fouls: none