By Bill Foley
Montana Tech women’s basketball coach Carly Sanon was focusing on the second and fourth quarters Saturday night after her Orediggers fell 72-55 to Rocky Mountain College at the HPER Complex. (Stats)
In those frames, the Orediggers went toe to toe and then some with the No. 22-ranked Battlin’ Bears. Unfortunately for the Orediggers, first and third quarters were an absolute disaster.
Rocky outscored Tech 45-14 in the first and third quarters, sending Tech to 0-4 in Frontier Conference play.
“We had two quarters where we just didn’t score,” Sanon said. “You take those away, we’re in good shape.”
Despite starting in an 18-8 hole after the first quarter, Tech battled back to tie the game at 26 heading into halftime.
The Orediggers, who turned the ball over seven times in the first quarter, forced eight Rocky turnovers in the second stanza.
“We wanted to pressure and pressure them for 40 minutes,” Sanon said. “They’re bigger than us. I don’t think they’re faster than us, so we really wanted to keep that tempo going. At the end of that second quarter, they were tired and they were breathing hard. It was a great run by us.”
The Bears, though, regrouped at halftime and took command with a 27-6 run in the third quarter.
Rocky coach Wes Keller said his team took better care of the basketball and finally got some shots to fall in the third quarter. Junior Antuanisha Wright hit two of her four 3-pointers to help launch the Rocky offense in the third.
That was a welcome site to Keller for more reasons than just the obvious.
“We’ve struggled to hit the threes this year,” he said. “When you hit the three, it’s going to open things up.”
Moreover, Keller pointed to the Bears’ defense, especially after halftime.
“Our defense as a whole in the third quarter was the best I’ve seen,” he said.
Sophomore Mollie Peoples, a Butte Central graduate, came off the bench and scored all of her team-leading 13 points in the fourth quarter. That helped the Orediggers outscore the Bears 23-19 in the final frame.
Thanks to the big Rocky third quarter, that lead was just too much to overcome.
Sanon pointed to her team’s youth vs. the experience of Rocky and the other teams in the Frontier. Tech was already young and inexperienced before junior post player Shay Potter decided not to come back to school following the Christmas break.
“If you look at the stat line, we were better at everything,” Sanon said. “We had less turnovers. We had more boards. The rebounding was about the same. The free throws were the same. They shot better than us.”
Sanon said her team is showing improvement.
“Are we better last week than when we played Carroll (College)? We are,” she said. “We’re going to continue to get better and better. We still get these guys two more times. Like I told our players, we’re better than we were, and we keep getting better. These teams just have so much more experience than us.”
Markaela Francis scored 17 points off the bench to lead the Bears (12-4 overall, 3-1 in conference). Brooke Jones scored 15 points, while Justyn Juhl tossed in 13 and Chamberlin netted 12.
True freshman Kloie Thatcher, a Butte Central graduate, scored nine points. She also dished out six assists.
Keller said he is impressed with his former Maroon.
“A lot is being asked of her, and she never makes an excuse,” the coach said. “She’s continually getting better every practice, every game.”
Tech true freshman Dani Urick also had a solid game, scoring 11 points to go along with five steals.
Tech (10-5 overall) also got nine points from Mesa Williams, eight points and nine rebounds from Kaylee Zard, six points from Tjaden Pallister and two apiece from Chlestina Faletio, Hailey Crawford, Lana Berg and Sharlei Graham-Bernisto.
The Orediggers play host to the University of Providence on Thursday. They head to Havre to play MSU-Northern on Saturday.
Sanon said her Orediggers will still have plans for good things this season.
“We’re going to work our way back into this Frontier Conference,” she said.
The Battlin’ Bears head to Montana Western and Lewis-Clark State College next week.