MISSOULA – As the confetti rained down Saturday night and Eagle Nation celebrated a Big Sky Conference championship, a few fans watched the fun – and had some of their own.
“Just like football, just like football” they chanted in the middle of Dahlberg Arena after Eastern defeated host Montana 69-65. The final ledger in the two major sports: 4 to 1 in favor of the Eagles, including the two that mattered most: a 37-20 FCS playoff victory in November and Saturday’s dramatic win.
Special time for EWU’s Aussies
In addition to enjoying big games in Eastern’s semifinal win over Sacramento State, Eagles Venky Jois and Felix Von Hofe enjoyed the company of their families, who traveled halfway around the world for the event.
Von Hofe’s uncle flew into Missoula on Friday – just in time to catch the biggest day in the sophomore’s career, a career-high 23-point effort that carried the Eagles into the Big Sky title game.
Jois’ parents arrived from Melbourne earlier in the week, and watched as the junior forward scored 19 points, including four dunks.
Said EWU coach Jim Hayford, “I know that is very special to these guys because they don’t get much time with their families.”
Harvey, Jois all-tournament
Eastern Washington guard Tyler Harvey was the Most Valuable Player of the tournament after leading the Eagles to their comeback win over Montana, and Eagles forward Venky Jois also made the six-man team.
The other all-stars included Martin Breunig and Jordan Gregory of Montana; Mikh McKinney of Sacramento State and Chris Yanku of Northern Arizona.
Eastern Washington senior guard Hayley Hodgins was named to the women’s team. In two games, Hodgins had 32 points and 12 rebounds while shooting 13 for 31 from the field and 5 for 10 from 3-point range.
The other first-team picks were tourmanent MVP Kellie Rubel of Montana, the Grizzlies’ Kayleigh Valley (University High School), Northern Colorado’s D’Shara Strange and Stephanie Lee, and Sac State’s Adella Randle-El.
The final seconds of Montana’s 61-59 semfinal win over Northern Arizona were wrapped in controversy, causing the conference to issue a statement that Griz coach Travis DeCuire would be allowed to coach in the final against Eastern.
As Montana’s Jordan Gregory connected on a go-ahead layup with 0.4 seconds left, a Grizzly player in street clothes ran on to the court before time expired. The officials stopped play to review the remaining time and in the process determined the bench member did not interfere with the play and no technical foul would be assessed.
The drama continued postgame as the two schools gathered midcourt. No punches were thrown, but the two sides engaged in some shoving on both ends as NAU coach Jack Murphy and DeCuire met to shake hands. The teams eventually cleared the court and returned to their locker rooms.
The Big Sky Conference released a statement following the game indicating DeCuire would coach in the title game. Murphy remained under review.
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