A foul with 7.4 seconds left put Aniese Palmore at the free throw line with a chance to give Montana Western the lead. However, the first of two was missed, resulting in a tied game, 79-79.
Oklahoma City used a timeout to advance the ball to mid-court and set up a final shot. A ball-fake by Galindo created all the space the junior needed to push the Stars into the quarterfinals for the eighth time in the last nine seasons.
“When you get to this point in the tournament, you have great players playing and they make plays – that’s what you saw tonight,” said Oklahoma City Head Coach Bo Overton.
The Stars ended the contest shooting 57.6 percent (34-of-59) from the field – the highest single-game percentage at this year’s championship – included a 63.6 percent (21-of-33) effort in the second half.
Brooke Irwin, who created mismatch issues in the post the entire game, led Oklahoma City with a season-high 24 points on 11-of-13 shooting from the field. The junior also had a game-high two blocks.
“I felt that we had an advantage with Irwin inside,” added Overton. “I thought that she continued to play well throughout the game.”
Galindo was next on the scoresheet for the Stars with 23 points, followed by Daniela Wallen with 22 points. Wallen – the Sooner Athletic Conference Player of the Year – fouled out with a little more than four minutes left in the game.
Aided by six first quarter 3-pointers, Montana Western held a 22-15 edge on the scoreboard at the conclusion of the contest’s opening 10 minutes. The output matched the Bulldogs season average of six long-range baskets per game, which entering today ranked No. 41 nationally.
Palmore was the primary sharpshooter for the Bulldogs in the opening stanza, as the senior connected on 4-of-5 from beyond the arc.
The second quarter was even until a 9-0 run by the Bulldogs late in the period gave the club what appeared to be a 39-29 at the break. However, a half-court heave by Oklahoma City’s Mariana Duran found the bottom of the net, cutting the score to 39-32 at the buzzer sounded.
Both teams entered the first half locker room shooting approximately 50 percent from the field. The difference for Montana Western came from beyond the arc and on the boards, as the Bulldogs connected on seven first-half 3-pointers and held an 18-12 edge in rebounding. Nine of Montana Western’s rebounds came on the offensive end.
Oklahoma City appeared to be seizing back the momentum late in the third quarter after a 3-pointer by Daniela Galindo and steal-and-score by Daniela Wallen made it a 61-56 contest with 1:28 remaining in the period.
However, once again Montana Western answered with a three. This time it was in dramatic fashion, as Palmore spun at the top of the key and nailed the shot as the shot clock expired.
Galindo, much like she did in the Stars’ first round game against MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.), sparked an 11-0 fourth quarter run to give Oklahoma City a 67-66 advantage – its first lead since the 3:06 mark of the first quarter - with 6:11 left in the game.
From that point forward, neither team held greater than a four-point lead.
Palmore was the star for Montana Western. She tallied career-highs in points with 29 and made 3-point baskets with eight. Palmore also had six rebounds – one shy of tying for the team-best – and three steals.
Other notable performances for the Bulldogs came from Taylor Howlett – 20 points and three assists – and Kaye Bignell – 13 points and seven rebounds.
Montana Western, which was appearing in the national championship for the ninth time in program history and first since 2007, ends the year with a 24-9 record. The Bulldogs fall to 7-9 all-time at the national championship and 1-5 all-time against teams from Oklahoma at the event.
Oklahoma City faces No. 1 Lindsey Wilson (Ky.) tomorrow at 2 p.m. MDT with a trip to the semifinals on the line.