Jackets Punch Playoff Berth, Buzz Into Team Of The Week
Freshman Brendan Howard came up clutch up north last week, leading his team to a pair of huge road victories.
Freshman Brendan Howard came up clutch up north last week, leading his team to a pair of huge road victories.

Monday, March 4, 2019

PORTLAND, Ore. – Entering the final week of the regular season in a dead heat for one of the final remaining spots in the GNAC Championships, Montana State Billings faced a long road trip and plenty of pressure in its last two games. The team rose to the challenge and then some, posting a pivotal 67-56 victory at Alaska Anchorage on Thursday before capping the week with a blowout win in Fairbanks. 

The Alaskan sweep clinched a No. 5 seed for the Yellowjackets in this week's championships while also earning them selection as GNAC Team of the Week.

"It was a great road trip with two wins to secure a conference tournament berth," said head coach Mick Durham. "Our guys were very determined and knew what was at stake the last week of the season. We had good contributions from everyone and were again very balanced on the offensive end of things."

Durham's team was led on the trip by freshman Brendan Howard, who averaged 18 points and 5.5 rebounds per game off the bench over the two victories.

That offensive balance was on display as the Yellowjackets had four players score in double figures in the 11-point win to open the week, led by a 16-point performance off the bench from sophomore Kobe Terashima. Montana State Billings clutched up when needed, overcoming a five-point halftime deficit to run away with the 67-56 victory after outscoring its opponents 43-27 in the second stanza.

The club stayed hot two days later, jumping out to a 41-22 advantage and never looking back in a 92-65 win over host Alaska. Howard led the visitors, dropping 25 points while pulling down seven rebounds.

The victory moved the team into fifth place in the conference standings, clinching the much sought after berth in the GNAC Championships in the process.

"We came out and played determined basketball and took care of business," Durham said after the victory. "Thursday's win in Anchorage really set up this opportunity and we took advantage. Our two goals this season were to be a top-six team and to have a winning season and I'm excited for our guys to be able to achieve and experience that success."

That season will continue on Thursday night when the Yellowjackets meet No. 4 seed Western Oregon in a quarterfinal matchup at 7:30 p.m. (PST) in Bellingham. The winner of that game will move on to face top-seeded Saint Martin's on Friday night.