Dickinson State’s first half was the worst 20 minutes head coach Mark Graupe had seen from his team in practice or in a game this year.
But the Blue Hawks found the spark they needed.
Down 28-24 at halftime, the Blue Hawks women’s basketball team scored 21 points in the fourth quarter and 39 in the second half to win 63-54 Saturday afternoon at Scott Gymnasium.
DSU junior center Megan Klein led the offensive charge, as she scored seven points in the third quarter to end up with a game-high 16 points to go along with her 14 rebounds - another game best.
“We started off really slow in the first half,” Klein said. “We just didn’t have a spark. At halftime, we just needed that spark so coming out in the third quarter, we just had more fire and that’s what I think got us rolling.”
Though the 6-foot-1 Klien only tallied two blocks in the game - also tied for a game high - she recorded them when it counted. The Orediggers had multiple opportunities to steal the game away, down 56-51 with 2 minutes, 41 seconds to go. However, Klein stuffed two shots with 1:40 and 1:05 left, giving the Blue Hawks a much needed defensive lift during Montana Tech’s comeback attempt.
“Defensively, we can be very tough,” Klein said. “So I think in close games like this when we’re playing good teams like Montana Tech, we really have to lock down on defense, and if we do, we can beat anybody.”
The Blue Hawks (5-1) initially took control of the game with a 7-6 lead, but the Orediggers (4-2) took their first lead of the game at 10-9 just before the end of the first quarter. The Blue Hawks and Montana Tech stayed even paced, 20-20, about six minutes in the second quarter, at which point DSU junior forward Leslie Beaudoin led her team with eight points. She ended the game with 12 points while shooting 5 for 10 from the field.
“The first half was kind of rough. We didn’t have a spark coming off right away,” Beaudoin said. “In the second half, we said we needed to turn things around and play our style of basketball.”
Montana Tech pulled away to lead 28-24 at halftime behind junior guard Hattie Thatcher’s 10 halftime points. She ended the game with 14 points on 4 of 13 shooting and 4 for 6 from the 3-point line.
But she was about the only one who frequently found the bottom of the net on shots. As a team, the Orediggers connected on 17 of 70 shots (24.3 percent) after hitting only 8 of 39 3-point shots (20.5 percent) in the second half. The Orediggers also made just 5 of 28 3-pointers (17.9 percent).
The Blue Hawks weren’t much better, though, as they made 22 of 69 field goals (31.9 percent) and 3 of 22 3-pointers (13.6 percent).
“When you do that, it’s going to be hard to win games,” Montana Tech head coach Carly VanDyke-Sanon said. “We’re a great 3-point shooting team, but when we’re not hitting 3’s we have to find a way to attack.”
But the difference was that spark. Graupe knew his team needed some kind of fuel to get over the hump, so he used some different lineups throughout the game. To start, senior center Janniqua Thomas, who is DSU’s No. 1 scorer and ranks seventh in the North Star Athletic Association with 15 points per game, came off the bench. He also gave more minutes to junior guard Taylor Henningsgard, who only scored five points, but racked up a game-high five assists and was a key ball handler in crunch time.
“We have a very deep bench,” Beaudoin said. “We’re not worried about putting points up. It comes down to our defense. We know that if we’re going to get anything going offensively or defensively, we need a spark, and the people who started the second half, they gave it to us and just started rolling from there.”
But Graupe said that lineup could, and probably will, change again when the Blue Hawks play at NCAA Division II Minot State Wednesday. DSU defeated MSU 80-67 at home earlier this season.
“The scary part about this team is that I don’t think we’ve put it together yet,” Graupe said. “That’s why this season we’re so optimistic. Look out if we do put together one of these games.”
Dickinson State 63, Montana Tech 54
MT 10 28 33 54
DSU 9 24 42 63
MT (4-2): Calle Remsen 1-5 0-0 2, Rachel Farris 0-7 2-2 2, Hattie Thatcher 4-13 4-6 14, Sammy McGree 6-22 1-3 13, Shayla Mack 4-10 3-3 13, Bailey Armbruster 0-1 0-0 0, Kourtney Coverdell 0-3 2-2 2, Martha Dembek 2-9 3-3 8. Totals: 17-70 15-19 54.
DSU (5-1): Leslie Beaudoin 5-10 0-0 12, Ashley Bentz 1-6 0-0 2, Megan Klein 5-11 6-8 16, Lorna Shepherd 3-8 6-9 12, MacKayla Feeney 3-13 2-2 8, Paitton Herbst 1-3 0-0 3, Taylor Henningsgard 1-3 2-4 4, Alyssa Hildebrand 0-2 0-0 0, Rachael McDonough 0-2, 0-0 0, Janniqua Thomas 2-9 0-0 4. Totals: 22-69 16-23 63.
Total fouls: MT 22, DSU 19. 3-point goals: MT 5-28 (Thatcher 2-7, McGree 0-8, Mack 2-7, Coverdell 0-2, Dembek 1-4), DSU 3-22 (Beaudoin 2-5, Bentz 0-5, Shepherd 0-1, Feeney 0-5, Herbst 0-2, Schieffer 1-1, Henningsgard 0-1, Hildebrand 0-1, McDonough 0-1). Rebounds: MT 47 (Dembek 9), DSU 58 (Klein 14). Assists: MT 6 (Thatcher 4), DSU 15 (Henningsgard 5). Steals: MT 11 (Thatcher 6), DSU 8 (Henningsgard 4). Blocks: MT 4 (Farris 2), DSU 5 (two tied with 2). Turnovers: MT 15, DSU 19.