Fairfield’s Jill Barta, no stranger to late-game heroics, hit a 3-pointer with about four seconds left to lift Montana to a 57-55 win over Wyoming in the first game of the Montana-Wyoming All-Star Series Friday night at Sheridan College's Golden Dome.
Earlier this year, the Gonzaga-bound Barta made a long 3 at the buzzer to force a second overtime in the Class B state championship game, a contest eventually won by Fairfield as the Eagles claimed their fourth straight Class B title. She finished with 19 points Friday night, with 12 coming in the first half.
“She’s one of the best we’ve had in Montana,” All-Star coach Brian Henderson said. “You get an open look like that … she had just missed a shot earlier, so I knew she would be dialed in. I knew if she took her time, got her rhythm and let it fly, it’d be good.”
Cassi Hashley added 10 points and Olivia Roberts nine for Montana, which has won 12 of the last 14 meetings and leads the series 24-11. Wyoming got nine points each from Kaylee Johnson, Kacie O’Connor and Julia Seamans.
Wyoming, outsized by the six 6-footers on the Montana roster, resorted to its outside game to build a nine-point lead in the first half. Wyoming held a 34-29 lead at the break and led for much of the second half before a 3-pointer from Roberts – who will play for the University of Wyoming – got Montana within 55-54 with two minutes remaining in the game.
That’s where the score stood when Johnson, a Natrona County product who is taking her game to Stanford, missed the front end of a bonus free throw with 12 seconds left. Montana’s Jace Henderson got the rebound and as she took the ball up the floor, Wyoming’s defenders collapsed around her. Henderson then got the ball to a wide-open Barta, who buried the game-winner from the left wing.
Wyoming’s last-ditch effort on a runner from halfcourt was no good.
“I don’t really know what happened,” Barta said. “They all just kind of ran to the ball. Jace did a really good thing. She knew I was calling for it and just fired it over.”
Wyoming hit 11 3-pointers in the game: O’Connor had three, while Sarah Erickson, Seamans and Jessie Underberg all had two.
Barta scored Montana’s first six points while back-to-back 3-pointers from Vanessa Stavish and Mika Robinson gave the team an early 14-2 lead. Rachel Erickson, O’Connor and Seamans helped ignite a 32-11 response as the Wyoming girls built a 34-25 lead which became a 34-29 lead at the break.
"I think their size kind of wore on us a bit," Wyoming coach Frank McCarthy said. "But we were right there at the end. I was proud of our kids. I thought they represented our state well."
Johnson was named Wyoming’s Miss Basketball.
Game two of the series will be played Saturday night at Rocky Mountain College’s Fortin Center. The girls tip off at 5:30 p.m., followed by the boys at 7:30.