MISSOULA, Mont. -- After earning his second straight Big Sky tournament MVP honor while helping Montana defend its title, Kareem Jamar's was more focused on the Grizzlies' return trip to the NCAA tournament.
Jamar scored 20 points, Will Cherry had 18 and Montana held off Weber State 67-64 Saturday night to win the conference tourney 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.The Grizzlies won the tournament for the third time in four years, and sixth in the last 12."This is our third trip to the dance, they're all special," Montana's seventh-year coach Wayne Tinkle said. "This one is unbelievable."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, and Scott Bamforth's last-second heave was short as the Grizzlies returned to the NCAA tournament for the 10th time.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 5 1/2 minutes to go, and they didn't trail again."He's been a huge part of (Montana's) program for some years now," Weber State head coach Randy Rahe said of Cherry. "I'm sure he'll go down as one of the best players in school history."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 5 1/2 minutes remaining in the half. Bolomboy's free throw with 51 seconds left tied the score at 34 at the break.