Boise, ID – In the first Big Sky Championships held at Century Link Arena last season, the top-seeded Montana Grizzlies and No. 3-seed Eastern Washington Eagles were in the exact same position with the Grizzlies winning that battle 82-65. Montana (25-8) made it to the championship game by beating No. 9-seed Sacramento State 79-73 in the quarter finals, and No. 4-seed Weber State in the semifinals 78-49. Eastern Washington (16-17) beat No. 6-seed Montana State 90-84 and No. 7-seed Southern Utah 77-61.
Eastern Washington staggered the Grizzlies early as they took a 12-point lead with 14 minutes to play in the first half. 6’7” freshman guard/forward Kim Aiken Jr. dominated the half with his outstanding play on both ends of the floor leading Eastern Washington to a 31-26 halftime lead with 12 points (4-6 FG, 2-3 3FG, 2-2 FT), four rebounds, two blocks, and two steals. The Eagles led for nearly 29 minutes, however the Grizzlies would not go away as they battled on each possession wearing down Eastern Washington physically. Senior guard Ahmaad Rorie who was held scoreless in the first half, made his first basket on a jump shot giving the Grizzlies their first lead of the game 47-46 with 11:04 remaining in the game. The Eagles responded with a lay-up by senior forward Jesse Hunt to take their final lead of the game at 48-47, Montana then responded with a three pointer by 6’7” senior guard Donovan Dorsey taking a 50-48 lead with 10 minutes to play and didn’t relinquish the lead from there.
Montana turned up their intensity on the defensive end, and became the aggressors on offense as the momentum swung in their favor. Each team had a balanced scoring attack with four players reaching double figures on both sides. Montana received big time play off the bench as Dorsey made every shot he took in route to scoring 12 (4-4 FG, 4-4 3 FG) of the Grizzlies 14 bench points, to go along with his four rebounds. He made huge plays on both ends of the floor as that fire power catapulted the Grizzlies to capture the 68-62 win. The stingy Grizzlies defense held the Eagles to just five field goals in the final eight minutes of play leading Montana to its 12th NCAA Tournament appearance in school history. In 2018 the Grizzlies earned a bid and lost to Michigan 61-47 as a No. 14-seed.
For Montana, 6’5” junior forward Sayeed Pridgett played a fierce, competitive game on both ends of the floor and answered the call when the Grizzlies needed him the most. He contributed 12 of his game high 18 points (8-15 FG, 2-2 FT) in the second half to go along with two rebounds and three assists. His toughness and slashing drives for baskets fueled the second half rally. The Most Valuable Player of the Tournament was Rorie who played a phenomenal tournament and was very competitive and instrumental during that final push in the second half. Rorie scored 11 points (5-11 FG, 1-3 3FG) with five rebounds, two assists, and two turnovers. All-Tournament 6’2”senior guard Michael Oguine had 12 points (5-9 FG, 1-3 3FG, 1-4 FT), seven rebounds and three assists. He was really good attacking the basket throughout the game and battling in the paint for rebounds.
For Eastern Washington All-Tournament freshman guard/forward Aiken Jr. had 14 points (5-12 FG, 2-6 3 FG, 2-2 FT), 11 rebounds, one assist, three turnovers, four blocks and two steals. He was noticeably one of the most talented and gifted players on the floor. He has the tools to become a special player. He defends multiple positions and is solid as an on and off ball defender. 6’8” All- Tournament junior forward Mason Peatling scored 13 points (5-10 FG, 3-5 FT) with seven rebounds, one assist, and two steals. Peatling has the skill set as a big to mix it up inside and out, runs the floor well, and plays with toughness. As he gets stronger and adds a few pounds he could potentially have a monster senior year in the Big Sky Conference. The team’s leader, 6’7”senior forward Hunt plays hard on both ends of the floor. He contributed 17 points (7-13 FG, 0-2 3FG, 3-4 FT) and seven rebounds and is a player who can play pro internationally. Speedy point guard Tyler Kidd battled and competed to finish with 12 points, six rebounds, three assists and one steal.
Montana, now 26-8 on the season will wait to see who and where they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament.