HAVRE -- Rocky Mountain College claimed its first outright Frontier Conference men's basketball championship since 1994 on Friday night by beating Montana State Northern 77-66 in the Armory Gymnasium.
The Battlin' Bears, ranked 10th nationally, will now be the No. 1 seed for the upcoming six-team conference tournament.
Rocky, 12-3 in conference and 21-6 overall with one game remaining, will receive a first-round bye in the playoffs and will host a semifinal contest in the Fortin Center on March 7.
The Bears will also get a chance to play a championship game at home on March 10.
"I'm excited because they went out and worked hard and they did it together," Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen said of his Bears' title-clinching performance against the Lights. "It was a great game tonight."
In defeating the No. 18 Lights for its eighth consecutive win, Rocky received 17 points from Jeremy Nicolas, 16 from Joel Barndt and 15 from Tyree Anderson.
Barndt also grabbed nine rebounds.
Rocky will finish its regular season on Saturday night with a game at the University of Great Falls.
"The biggest thing for me right now is that we have one regular-season game left and that is where my focus is," Dreikosen said. "I was very proud of our effort and execution tonight and we want to keep this going."
Rocky shot 52 percent from the field against the Lights and committed only six turnovers.
The Bears took the lead for keeps, 57-56, on a basket by Malachi Roberts with 9:46 to play. That started a game-breaking 11-0 run for Rocky.
Roberts accounted for four of those points, while Anderson also nailed a big 3-pointer.
"I'm extremely proud of the kids," Dreikosen said. "They made plays when we needed to, they stretched the lead out when we needed to and hung on to it."
There were 58 free throws attempted, with Rocky going 26 of 32 at the foul line.
"I just think both teams were playing extremely hard and didn't want to give an inch," Dreikosen said.
Northern, 11-5 and 23-7, was led by the 21 points of Corbin Pearson. Roshawn West chipped in with 12 and Alfie Miller 11.
The Lights shot 37 percent from the field, including 6 of 20 from 3-point territory.
Dreikosen was a senior on the 1993-94 Rocky team, which won the last conference title outright. The Bears also tied for the league crown in 1994-95.