Senior center Natasha Torgerson couldn’t have wished for a better ending to her final home game this afternoon at Sacramento State.
Not only were her family and friends on hand to celebrate, but she scored a career-high 22 points that helped the Hornets upset the Big Sky regular season champion Montana, 80-71.
“My shot was working for me,” Torgerson said, who finished with a game-high five 3-pointers. “I knew when I made my first two shots that it was going to be a good day.”
Torgerson was just one of the four players to be honored on senior day. The others were Mallorie Franco, Megan Kritscher and Kylie Kuhns.
Despite it being her last game ever at The Nest, Torgerson said she was not so much sad as she was anxious.
“I’m not much of a crying person,” Torgerson said. “I told myself I would only cry if my team cried.”
The Hornets started the game with an early lead, but the Lady Griz quickly responded with nine straight points to give them an 18-12 advantage with 14:25 left.
Torgerson gave Sac State the lead with back-to-back 3-pointers and the Hornets would go into the locker room 40-36 at halftime.
“I told her at the first media timeout that she was going to have to have a big game for us to beat them,” said Hornets’ head coach Jamie Craighead. “(Montana) has great post players and I really felt like we needed someone else besides (Kylie Kuhns) to step up.”
In the second half, the Hornets answered any and all attempts at run by Montana with key 3-point baskets by juniors Se’nyce Parrish and Alle Moreno until midway through the second half.
The Lady Griz received some hot shooting of their own as they scored 10 straight points and took the lead, 62-58 with eight minutes left in the game.
However, Sac State responded as it finished the game 22-9 run, giving the program its second ever win over Montana. The last win came in 2010.
“We made them play full-court with us,” Kuhns said, who finished with another double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds. “We are not as strong in the half court and that’s all they practice, so we got them to play our style.”
Not only was this an emotional game for the four seniors, but for Craighead as well.
“My players needed that extra fire,” Craighead said. “I try not to let my emotions get to me and I am really just trying to help them accomplish their goals.”
The win not only clinched the No. 5 seed in the Big Sky Tournament starting Wednesday, but also gives the program its best record since moving to Division I in 1992 with an 18-11 record.
“These players have really embodied everything I have put into their minds and they play hard,” Craighead said. “It just speaks about their hearts and guts. Anything I put in front of them is a challenge and they take it and run with it.”
Ryan can be reached on Twitter at @rskuhn