James Snook-USA Today Sports
Grizzlies knock Weber State out of Big Sky Tournament for fourth straight year.
Weber State owns the Big Sky Conference. And Montana owns Weber State.
This fact became crystal clear on Saturday night, as the Montana Grizzlies held off the Weber State Wildcats, 67-64, to repeat as Big Sky Tournament Champions in Dahlberg Arena.
As terrific as Weber State has been -- 34-4 in regular-season conference play over the last two seasons -- Montana has been that much better, going 36-2 in the same stretch and knocking Weber out of the conference tournament in four-straight years.
Kareem Jamar, Big Sky Player of the Year, had another phenomenal conference title game. Last year, Jamar scored 23 on 9-12 shooting. Saturday, he cooled off to just 20 points and 9-13 from the field.
With just more than three minutes remaining and the Grizzlies up two, Jamar put Montana in control for good by backing Weber senior Scott Bamforth down in the post, scoring while fouled, and converting the free throw. The five-point margin was too much for Weber to overcome.
After a tie game at halftime, Weber State started the second half with a 10-5 run, capped with a Bamforth three pointer. But Will Cherry helped muscle the Griz back into the lead, scoring three layups over a three-minute period to give Montana a 52-50 lead.
Bamforth led the Wildcats with 12 points on 3-6 shooting from behind the arc. Davion Berry and Joel Bolomboy also added 12 points each for Weber State, who falls to 26-6 on the season and likely to a CIT berth.
Weber is still seeking its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2007, despite going 126-62 over the six-season drought. The Wildcats are 51-13 in the past two seasons.
Montana, meanwhile, gets to enjoy the excitement of Selection Sunday to learn its fate. It's a well-deserved excitement, too. After missing Cherry for nearly the entirety of non-conference play, the Griz claimed victories in several conference battles down the stretch without both Cherry and center Mathias Ward.
Ward missed Saturday's title win with a broken foot. Yet Montana grabbed the win, a strong testament to the heart of its players and the coaching abilities of Wayne Tinkle.
Last season, Montana claimed a 13-seed and faced Wisconsin in the first round. I know the committee tends to reward teams who win both regular-season and conference-tournament championships, so it seems Montana could be destined for the 13 line again with the same record of 25-6. Congrats to the Grizzlies on another outstanding season.