NCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT : Montana State Loses to St. John’s, 83-74, but Goes Out Smiling

Times Staff Writer

Good night, sweet Bobcats. Mighty St. John’s turned the lights out on the biggest underdog of them all, Montana State University, but not before the Fighting Bobcats gave them a night to remember.

It took the Redmen, the nation’s fourth-ranked team, 12:26 to go ahead to stay. St. John’s won by only 83-74 and were led by Walter Berry, who scored 31 points while trading jokes with Bobcat Coach Stu Starner.

“We enjoyed Walter,” Starner said. “He plays with a smile on his face. He came by the bench a couple times. We were fouling him at the end. He was the entry point. I said, ‘Hey Walter, you got enough points, we’re going to stop fouling you.’


“He just grinned. He’s a neat kid.”

For the Bobcats, it was a neat night. They dropped in three quick 20-footers before the play of the game. Montana State’s Kral Ferch, a slight, blond 6-foot 4-inch guard, who on first glance would not be the likeliest looking (or sounding) candidate, ended a fast break by throwing down a monster windmill dunk over 6-8 Shelton Jones.

Jones retreated to the baseline, stroking his chin as if in wonder.

“Definitely,” Jones said later. “I was expecting him to lay it up. I was going to put it on the glass.

“Didn’t turn out that way.”

Said Kral’s brother, freshman guard Shann:

“When they came out on the court, you could tell they were thinking, ‘Montana State, what’s that?’ At the end, at least, they were talking to us.

“We came out, we just didn’t want to get killed. . . . Shaking Louie Carnesecca’s hand afterward, that was a thrill. That’s my dad’s hero.”

It was fortunate it turned out so well for the Bobcats, this being their first NCAA appearance since 1951. They started the night 14-16 after winning the postseason tournament in the Big Sky Conference.

This made them the only losing team in the NCAA tournament and got them interviewed from one end of America to the other. They seemed to enjoy it.

Kral Ferch, asked by Newsday’s Dave Rosner how he and Shann got their names, said his father didn’t want any sons named Tom, Dick or Harry.

And his father’s name?

“Tom,” Kral said.

And Starner, asked a couple of days ago how he planned to deal with Berry:

“Maybe Walter will get bored early, with all the points he’s going to score early.”


“We’re going to put our center, Greg Walter, on him. Greg is 7-0 and has size 18 shoes. Maybe Walter will trip over his shoes.”


“We’ll try to sag on him. The way our team goes, they sag the other way. They sag out onto the perimeter and let our post man run free. You think that’s funny? Hey, after 31 games, it’s not very funny.”

Berry did trip a couple of times, once limping out of the game while St. John’s fans saw their season pass in front of their eyes. Berry limped back in 57 seconds later and went back to work in the low post, where he was about three seconds quicker per move than anything that ever lined up in the Big Sky.

“What did I think when he went down?” Carnesecca asked. “Get up!”

And had he told Walter to take over?

“You don’t have to tell Walter to shoot,” Carnesecca said.