Diggers escape Thomas More in OT, punch ticket to Kansas City
Playing without Frontier Conference MVP Caleb Bellach, the Montana Tech Orediggers found solid ground in overtime and were able to fend off Thomas More University of Kentucky 77-72 in the second round of the NAIA National Men's Basketball Tournament Wednesday night at Kelvin Sampson Court. The Orediggers rallied from a 7 point halftime deficit to tie the game at 62 with 4 and a half to play and the teams would battle to a 67-all tie at the end of the second half. In the extra frame the Diggers slammed the door on the Saints scoring the first six points of overtime on a run highlighted by a Hayden Diekhans slam dunk that sent the near-capacity crowd into a frenzy. Diekhans had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds after being frustrated by 3 uncharacteristic, missed layups in the first half. But Diekhans was hardly the only hero. Michael Ure, a former Idaho Gatorade Player-of-the-Year led all scorers with 22 and Asa Williams joined them in double figures with 18 points.
With the victory the Orediggers improve to a school-record 28-4 mark and move on to the final tournament site for the first time in school history. A fact made all the more impressive by the fact that during the 2016-17 season, their first under Coach Adam Hiatt, the Orediggers won only a single Frontier Conference game, The historic turnaround was noted by a jubilant Athletic Director, Matt Stepan who said advancing in the tournament was huge, giving credit to Coach Hiatt. "He had a vision 7 years ago and we bought in immediately. This is not a surprise. This is what we expect and what Coach Hiatt expects. I'm just so proud of him and his team for bringing it to Montana Tech," a smiling Stepan added.
The Diggers will next meet William Penn in the field of 16 on March 13 or 14 at a time to be determined. Stay in touch with Townsquare Media for all of the updates,