20-11, 14-4 Conf

Jordan Gregory game winner sends Montana to Big Sky finals

MISSOULA, Mont. -- Jordan Gregory scored 21 points, including the game-winning layup with less than a second remaining, to give Montana a 61-59 win over Northern Arizona in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference tournament Friday night.

Gregory's basket with 0.4 seconds left came after Kris Yanku, who had 26 points for fourth-seeded Northern Arizona, tied the game with a pair of free throws with eight seconds left.

"Coach [Travis] DeCuire drew up to set a flat ball screen and wanted me to make something happen," said Gregory, according to the Great Falls Tribune. "The big didn't hedge and I got a chance to squeeze past him and thankfully I made the layup."

The ending was not without controversy. Someone from the Montana bench, whom the Big Sky Conference has identified as Jermaine Edmonds, an academically ineligible player for the Grizzlies, went out to midcourt before realizing there was still time remaining and diving back to the sideline -- a violation that could have resulted in a technical foul. But officials determined that the commotion did not interfere with the play, and no technical was called. However, when the head coaches met in the postgame handshake line, Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy appeared to poke DeCuire in the chest and a scuffle ensued with some shoving but no apparent punches thrown.

"I did what I do after every game, win or lose; I'm going to shake a man's hand, win or lose and tell him good game," DeCuire told the Tribune. "The rest was entertaining."

DeCurie then went over to the student section to celebrate with the fans.

The Big Sky Conference said that commissioner Doug Fullerton did an initial review of the incident after the game.

"First thing, I want to compliment the players,'' Fullerton said in a statement. "The players as we watch them, there are no punches thrown, and they are breaking it up. They absolutely did a good job, both sets of players. The one thing people want to know about is (Montana coach) Travis (DeCuire). I see absolutely no action by Travis that would cause us to suspend him or cause any problems for Travis tomorrow. We're still reviewing the head coach at Northern Arizona.''

The Grizzlies (20-11) face second-seeded and conference co-champion Eastern Washington (25-8) in Saturday's championship game.

Both teams missed numerous chances down the stretch but Aaseem Dixon hit a 3-pointer for the Lumberjacks (19-14) with 1:14 left to make it 56-55 but Gregory countered with a 3 for Montana at 43 seconds to make it a four-point game. After Yanku made two free throws with 30 seconds to go, but teams had a turnover and Montana missed two free throws before Yanku tied it.

After a timeout, Gregory brought the ball up the middle of the court and then cut down the right side of the lane, slicing through two defenders to lay the ball in.

"Our guys fought to the end up until the final buzzer," Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy said. "For us to battle like that and tie the game the way we did at the end says something. This program is headed in the right direction and we have to take it all and learn from it.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.