9:05 PM ET, March 9, 2005
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- As Montana's Kamarr Davis filed out of the Memorial Coliseum with his teammates, he proudly wore around his neck the net the Grizzlies had cut down.Davis scored 19 points and Montana held off Weber State's late rally for a 63-61 victory in the Big Sky Conference title game Wednesday night, earning the Grizzlies an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament. "It was surreal to cut down the nets. It was great to watch our guys do that. Each one of them has a story about this year. They've all come a long way," Montana's first-year coach Larry Krystkowiak said. But it wasn't without a fight. Virgil Matthews' dunk with 4:17 left capped an 11-0 run and made it 54-44 for Montana, which has won six straight. Weber State chipped away at the lead, narrowing it to 60-58 on Terrell Stovall's 3-pointer with 1:03 left. Montana's Kevin Criswell missed a layup before Stovall was called for an offensive foul on the other end and the Grizzlies got the ball. Matt Martin made both his free throws after getting fouled with 14.4 seconds left to make it 62-58, but Weber State's Coric Riggs hit a 3-pointer with 4.2 seconds left to make it 62-61. Davis was fouled with 2.8 seconds and added drama by missing his first free throw before hitting his second for the final margin. "We just needed to keep our heads," Davis said. "Play hard, play smart and play together like coach has been preaching all year," he said. Krystkowiak screamed and raised his hands in victory as his team mobbed each other at center court. Criswell and Martin each added 11 points for the Grizzlies (18-12), who defeated Montana State 79-67 in the semifinals on Tuesday. Lance Allred had 21 points and 12 rebounds for Weber State (14-16), which upset top-seeded Portland State 71-61 to advance to the final. "We had things going in the first half and couldn't finish it off," Weber State coach Joe Cravens said. "It's disappointing because we didn't play the way we have been." The teams had met three times before in the Big Sky Title game -- 1978, 1980 and 1995 -- with the Wildcats winning each time. It was Montana's first appearance in the title game since 2002, when the Grizzlies beat Eastern Washington 70-66 to earn their last NCAA Tournament berth. Weber State beat Eastern Washington 60-57 in the tournament final the next year to earn an NCAA appearance. Allred had just six points in the semifinal game. But the 6-foot-11 senior center had 12 points and 10 rebounds by the half as Weber State built a 28-21 lead. Davis put pressure on Allred in the second half -- and in the process put Montana in control. "I just wanted to stay in front of him and deny him the ball," said Davis, a 6-foot-7 senior. "I was playing from behind him in the first half, and we switched it up in the second half." Montana narrowed it to 32-28 on Matt Dlouhy's alley-oop dunk. Davis added a jumper and Martin hit a 3-pointer to briefly give the Grizzlies a 33-32 lead. Both teams traded the lead four times until Kevin Criswell's jumper gave the Grizzlies a 47-44 lead with 6:36 to go. Davis added a pair of free throws and Martin hit another 3-pointer before Matthews' decisive dunk. "It was two different halves. We were tight coming out in the first half and didn't play smart, hard or together," Krystkowiak said. "It was entirely different in the second half. I think it was the pressure of the situation. We recovered and it was great to be a part of." The Wildcats and Grizzlies split their two regular season games.
Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press
Team Stat Comparison
|FG Made-Attempted||24-53 (.453)||23-49 (.469)|
|3P Made-Attempted||5-13 (.385)||5-13 (.385)|
|FT Made-Attempted||8-9 (.889)||12-14 (.857)|
|Fouls (Tech/Flagrant)||18 (0/0)||10 (0/0)|