The University of Montana women’s basketball team earned its second win in a row at home against the Portland State Vikings in a dominant 88-56 scoring split that saw highlight performances across the boards on Jan 28.
This matinee matchup was unlike previous as the Nike N7 program sponsored it. The N7 program was made by Sam McCracken who was also present at the game. The program helps give back to Indigenous communities around the United States through collaboration with Indigenous artists and designers.
The game featured some new jerseys and designs as well. The jerseys were turquoise, a color symbolic in many Indigenous cultures as it represents honor and integrity. Benji Headswift, designer of the Griz N7 logo, was also honored.
“It's such a blessing to be able to be a part of something that's big,” Sammy Fatkin, a senior guard on the Lady Griz team, said. “It just has more meaning being part of a legacy like this.”
The Lady Griz took honor and integrity to heart as the turquoise jerseys and impressive win on Thursday gave more meaning to a game that would become Montana’s most impressive offensive performance this season.
As soon as tipoff happened, it was electric. The Lady Griz scored 27 first quarter points on the back of Carmen Gfeller and Keeli Burton-Oliver. Even when Burton-Oliver went out due to foul trouble, the scoring stretch refused to diminish.
The second quarter was almost as good for the Griz offensively, notching 25 points to the Viking’s 11. This effort was commanded by Fatkin, shooting a perfect three-for-three from the three point line. A Dani Bartsch jumper would end the half with a 52-30 for the Griz.
“Her energy on defense and her ability to go get rebounds has been fantastic,” head coach Brian Holsinger said about Bartsch. “She's a good player.”
After a halftime performance of Indigenous dancers and singers, the Griz returned to the court with the same vengeance from the first half.
The Griz had a slower scoring third quarter, but Bartsch appeared strong with four points and six rebounds. The Vikings bounced back slightly but the immense deficit was too much to handle late in the game. Portland State’s Esmeralda Morales and Jada Lewis were the majority of the offense before the fourth quarter.
The third quarter ended in and, into the fourth, the most exciting part of the game happened: the benchwarmers went in.
Missoula resident Lauren Dick had been looking for a chance to go on the court and play in her first college game. The chance finally came.
As Dick rose from the bench and took off her warmup shirt, the crowd erupted. Knowing full well the game was over with minutes still on the clock, the crowd had waited to see the former Hellgate standout since her announcement.
“Did you see her smile? It couldn't have been bigger, right? Like, we love that kid,” Holsinger said about Dick.
And if stepping on the court wasn’t enough, an assist from Gina Marxen would give Dick the opening she needed to score her first points as a Lady Grizzly and the final two-point shot of the game.
The buzzer sounded off as the Griz took home another win 88-56 in front of over 3,200 people honoring Indigenous heritage, former legend and winningest coach in Montana history Robin Selvig and Benji Headswift, the designer of the jerseys.
The Griz had four double-digit scorers with Gfeller leading the pack at 19 points. Bartsch, Fatkin, and freshman Mack Konig were also a part of that club.
“Just wearing this jersey from the color to the crowd to everything that it means to Robin (Selvig) and everything that we're representing to be able to be the players out there in that jersey, it means something special,” Fatkin said.
The Vikings’ two leading scorers, Esmeralda Morales and Jada Lewis, earned 30 of the teams total 56 points.
The Griz will take on Northern Colorado in Greeley on Feb. 2 before heading to Flagstaff to face Northern Arizona.
For more on the N7 program, follow the link below: https://www.nike.com/n7-native-american-indigenous-heritage.