By Bruce Sayler
Montana Tech launched a depth charge attack in a 75-47 college men’s basketball win over Lewis-Clark State on Friday.
The Orediggers showed their depth, their lineup loaded with talent and skill, with 11 players scoring and four in double figures, against traditionally one of the better hoop programs on the schedule. The game was part of the Friday-Saturday Montana Tech Fall Classic tournament played at the Montana Tech HPER Complex.
Undefeated and 18thth-Rank in NAIA, never behind Montana Tech. Baskets from Caleb Bellach and Bridger Larson for a free throw from Michael Ure gave the Orediggers a 5-0 lead in the first five and a half minutes of the game. Bellach was supplied with a short drive opportunity by Chrishon Dixon before Ure, winner of the last two Frontier Conference Player of the Week awards, scored his foul shot. Larson, who soon came into the lineup off the bench, muscled to the basket for a layup.
Anthony Peoples Jr. finally put Lewis-Clark State on the scoreboard with a basket 14 minutes and 20 seconds into the first half. The Warriors of Lewiston, Idaho, were opponents of Montana Tech’s Frontier Conference before joining the Cascade Conference in 2020.
Defensive preparation was why Montana Tech’s win looked so easy, head coach Adam Hiatt said.
“They have good staff,” he said. “They’re going to be one of the top two or three teams in their conference. They have certain players who can hurt us in certain places.”
So the Orediggers reacted in a similar way. They took away the haunts of each of the warriors with defensive knowledge and reaction. Defenses were tailored to work individually against Lewis-Clark’s offensive threats at their favorite stations.
The rim, 3-point line, lanes, etc. were blocked depending on where the ball was or was going to be.
“I thought we had defensive urges tonight,” Hiatt said.
The depth kept the defensive unusually fresh.
“We have a lot of so-called interchangeable parts,” Hiatt said. “They can come in and have the same level of energy ability, talent and so on. We have so many tall, athletic guys.
“If we have a guy in bad trouble, we can withstand a storm from another team.”
Montana Tech extended their early lead to 20-6 after Larson picked a rebound and put it back through the hoop and Dixon hit a 3-point shot. Kai Warren responded with a 3-pointer for LC State, then the Orediggers started on a 7-0 run, four of them from Bellach.
The 6-foot-7 Bellach is the sole returnee from last year’s starting lineup and was an all-conference pick after transferring from Montana State.
Montana Tech’s lead at halftime was 38-20.
The Warriors started a short run at the Orediggers to start the second half. Oreon Courtney wrapped a short jumper and hookshot around Keegan Crosby’s pullup jumper in a 6-0 Lewis-Clark State run.
The Orediggers blunted it with consecutive 3-pointers from Ure en route to a 16-4 frenzy that opened a 54-30 frenzy with 1:49 on the clock. Montana Tech made a free substitute and cruised through the rest of the game.
“We have a lot of guys who can play,” Hiatt said, adding that ball motion is what drives the Orediggers’ offense. “We have a term – ‘sticky’. If the ball gets sticky, we’re not very good. It sticks in your hands for too long. Our boys share the ball well, quick passes.”
Larson finished the game with 12 points at the highest level. Asa Williams scored 11, and Bellach and Keeley Bake each had 10 to lead the Montana Tech attack. Dixon and Ure had nine points each, Hayden Diekhans had six, and Levi Torgerson, Camdyn LaRance, Emani Scott and Bridger Deden had two each. Diekhans, a 6-6 Fort Benton High School freshman, pulled down 10 rebounds, Williams dished out three assists and LaRance came on with four steals.
Montana Tech will go into action Saturday at 3:00 p.m. with a record 5-0 against Dickinson State, a team that the Orediggers beat 76-68 in Dillon last Saturday. Former Hiatt Montana Tech assistant Derek Selvig serves as Dickinson State’s head coach.
Silas Bennion and Peoples each scored eight points to share the team highscontest for Lewis-Clark State, who are now 3-2 for the season ahead of Saturday’s game against Providence of Great Falls. The Warriors shot 36 percent from the field against Montana Tech’s defense. Oredigger shooters saw a 44.4 percent increase.