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DSU edges Argos: Gatlin scores 25 as Blue Hawks hang on to top University of Great Falls

Press Photo by Meaghan MacDonald Dickinson State senior guard Mariah Duran, left, dribbles against University of Great Falls sophomore guard Taylor Statton during a Frontier Conference game on Thursday at Scott Gymnasium.

Battling is the only way to explain the Dickinson State women’s basketball season thus far.

Behind a 25-point and nine-rebound effort from Ja’Lisa Gatlin, the Blue Hawks defeated the University of Great Falls 77-71 for its second Frontier Conference victory Thursday and the win came down to the wire.

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“We’re battling,” DSU head coach Mark Graupe said. “There’s things going on that we have to fight through and yet somehow these ladies find a way. And that’s why I said ‘I don’t care how many wins,’ they’re all so meaningful and that’s why I’m grinning from ear to ear and got emotional at the end.”

Senior guard Mariah Duran added: “It was an exciting game because it was so close at the end. It was a battle to finish out with a win and we were really pumped.”

Great Falls came out in the second half more competitive. The Argos swatted away most of the Blue Hawks’ shots early on and went 4 for 4 on their first shots to tighten DSU’s lead to two. Sophomore guard Erin Legel, the conference’s leading scorer, had a game-high 30 points and went 8 for 20, six of which were 3-pointers.

With 12 minutes, 25 seconds left, Great Falls’ Lindsey Abramson drove down the court and made her layup to give her team a 48-47 lead for the first time since the first half.

Both teams traded points for the remainder of the game and kept the score within one or two. The game was tied four times at 62, 64, 66 and 68. With less than a minute and a half, Duran drained a long 3-pointer to capture a 71-68 lead. Duran and freshman guard Rachael McDonough supplied the final six DSU points from the free-throw line.

“As a team I think we came out strong,” said Gatlin, a junior forward. “We kind of had a little bump in the road but we brought it together and we put our defense and we put our offense together and we worked as a team and did great.”

Duran added: “The second half they came out and didn’t miss the first six possessions they got the ball. And sometimes that happens, but the most important thing is we didn’t get down on ourselves. We just went back right at them and finished the game as a team.”

In the first half, the Blue Hawks had their way with the Argos. Senior forward Jess Bygate opened up the scoring 30 seconds into the game to set her team on a pace for an early 8-3 lead. Great Falls struggled with their shots, making just 9 of 28 (32 percent).

DSU outscored Great Falls 24-9 in the final four minutes of the first half.

Gatlin dominated play in the first half. She went 5 for 7 from the field with a 3-pointer, made 3 of 4 free throws for 14 points. The Blue Hawks shooting and rebounding was overall on point, going 16 for 29 and outrebounded the Argos 23-19.

“In the second half we did a much better job of defending the post and rebounded much better,” Great Falls head coach Bill Himmelberg said. “But Dickinson shot the ball a little bit better than us right at the end, made a few baskets. It’s always an effort to win on the road and they play well here.”

The Blue Hawks return to Scott Gymnasium to host Montana State-Northern at 2 p.m. Saturday. The women are looking for their third straight Frontier Conference victory and there is no doubt they’ll be fighting for the win.

“Right now we’re 2-0 you’re talking to the top team in the conference,” Graupe laughed. “Saturday might even get tougher, they’re ranked in the nation. But the whole year is going to be like that. Maybe earlier in the year we played teams that were a little bit softer, but it’s going to be a battle every night, there’s no more soft ones.”

Great Falls (10-5, 0-2): Mary Wilmore 3-4 0-1 6, Lindsey Abramson 3-11 6-10 12, Erin Legel 8-20 8-9 30, Mackenzie Owens 1-5 0-0 2, Taylor Statton 4-8 0-0 9, Ashley Crippen 0-0 0-0 0, Darah Huertas-Vining 0-8 3-4 3, Nneka Nnadi 2-7 5-8. Totals: 21-63 22-32 71.

Dickinson State (12-5, 2-0): Ja’Lisa Gatlin 10-16 4-6 25, Jess Bygate 3-7 2-2 8, Dawne Degel 3-8 0-0 7, Mariah Duran 5-12 7-8 19, TaRicka Linzy 3-12 2-2 8, JaiDah Richardson 0-1 0-0 0, Rachael McDonough 0-1 3-4 3, Hannah Beede 1-1 0-0 2, Porsha Wadsworth 0-0 0-2 0, Jalyn Klauzer 2-5 1-2 5. Totals: 27-63 19-26 77.

Halftime: DSU 40-30. Total fouls: GF 21, DSU 24. Fouled out: GF Huertas-Vining. DSU Bygate. 3-point goals: GF 7-24 (Legel 6-12, Statton 1-4, Abramson 0-3, Owens 0-2, Huertas-Vining 0-3), DSU 4-17 (Duran 2-7, Degel 1-3, Gatlin 1-2, Linzy 0-5). Rebounds: GF 45 (Wilmore 11), DSU 45 (Gatlin 9). Assists: GF 8 (Legel 3, Owens 3), DSU 15 (Linzy 6). Steals: GF 5 (Legel 3), DSU 10 (Gatlin 4). Blocks: GF 2 (Wilmore 2), DSU 1 (Gatlin 1). Turnovers: GF 25 (Legel 6), DSU 17 (Degel 5).

Meaghan MacDonald

Meaghan is the sports page designer and copy editor for the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.  After graduating from James Madison University (Va.) in May 2013, she moved from New Jersey to North Dakota to start pursuing her career in sports journalism and was a sports reporter for the Dickinson Press and covered Dickinson State athletics. Meaghan has been working for the Forum since June 2015.