MISSOULA, Mont. – For the second straight year, Weber State came up short against Montana in the Big Sky championship game and was again denied its first trip to the NCAA tournament since 2007.
Scott Bamforth's last second-heave fell short as the Grizzlies held off the Wildcats 67-64 Saturday night to earn their second straight Big Sky tourney title and third in four years.
"I only had one second so I couldn't really do much," Bamforth said. "I know I had to catch and shoot it. I think I might even dribbled. I didn't really get a good look. "
Weber State trimmed a six-point Montana lead down to two in the closing minute, but the Grizzlies made enough free throws to escape with the win.
"This one's hard, it hurts," seventh year Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said. "It's gonna hurt because our kids invest into our programs, invest into our culture and invest into each other. But I'm really, really proud of our team. "
Kareem Jamar scored 20 points and Will Cherry had 18 to help Montana win the conference tournament title a league-record ninth time.
Jamar became the leauge's first player in 33 years to win back-to-back MVP honors since Bruce Collins did it for Weber State three years in a row, from 1978-1980.
"I wish I could be happy about individual awards, I'm not even thinking about MVP, man," Jamar said.
Cherry's 3-pointer extended Montana's lead to 62-57 with 46 seconds to go. After Frank Otis' layup pulled Weber State within three, Jordan Gregory made two free throws with 22 seconds remaining for the Grizzlies.
Gelaun Wheelwright hit a 3 to get the Wildcats to 64-62 with 11 seconds to go. Cherry was fouled a second later and made both free throws for Montana (25-6).
Jordan Richardson missed a 3 for Weber State (26-6) with 4 seconds remaining, but Joel Bolomboy's putback got the Wildcats within two.
Mike Weisner was fouled and made 1 of 2 from the line with 2 seconds to go for the Grizzlies, setting up Bamforth's last-second attempt.
Gregory finished with 12 points for Montana.
Davion Berry, Bamforth and Bolomboy scored 12 points each to lead Weber State, and Wheelwright added 11 points and nine rebounds.
Weber State had a stretch of 13 consecutive wins, including an 87-63 victory over Montana at home on Feb. 14. In that game the Wildcats dominated in the post, but their inside presence disappeared in this game.
"I felt like we were the better team, they couldn't handle us inside or outside," Otis said of the previous meeting. "They got it done tonight."
Cherry had six points during the Grizzlies' 8-0 run that gave them a 56-50 lead with about 5½ minutes to go, and they didn't trail again.
Berry, the Wildcats' leading scorer at 15.3 points per game, made 3 of 4 free throws in a 36-second span, and Kyle Tresnak made 1 of 2 to pull Weber State within two about 2 minutes later.
Jamar's three-point play extended Montana's lead to 59-54 with 3:10 to go. Berry followed with a 3 — just his second field goal in five attempts at that point — to get the Wildcats within two again, but the 76-percent free-throw shooter missed two from the line with 1:50 left.
Montana used a 16-7 run in the first half to take a 25-16 lead on Mike Weisner's 3 with 9 minutes to go.
Bamforth scored seven points in Weber State's 10-3 spurt that made it 29-27 on Bolomboy's three-point play with 5½ minutes remaining in the half. Bolomboy's free throw with 51 seconds left tied the score at 34 at the break.