Digger women top Saints, secure home playoff game

By Bruce Sayler

Thursday’s Montana Tech – Carroll college women’s basketball game was so good, fans are probably hoping they can see them play again.

Oh, wait. They can. Tuesday night.  And because of Montana Tech’s 58-50 win over the Saints Thursday in the Orediggers’ HPER Complex, the Frontier Conference playoffs first-rounder will be the same venue. It will be Montana Tech’s first home playoff game since 2011, said Nick Bowsher, Montana Tech assistant athletic director. Stats

“Playing at home is huge,” emphasized Martha Dembek, one of five seniors on the Montana Tech women’s team honored in Senior Night ceremonies between the women’s and men’s games. “The last couple of years we’ve had to play at Carroll in the playoffs. So, we get to have that atmosphere here this year and it will be here on Tuesday.”

Carly Sanon, head coach of the Orediggers, agreed.

“The crowd was awesome,” she said. “The (HyPER) Hooligans were great, the people in the stands were great. It was a great atmosphere.”

“It’s really important being at home. Nothing’s better than playing against Carroll, our big rival, at home in the playoffs. It is big for us. Now, we have it and it’s really exciting.”

The Saints and Orediggers played like rivals. Montana Tech threatened to push out to a command early only to have Carroll claw back and go in front. The second half was almost a point-for-point duel until the Orediggers used an 8-0 spurt to widen a gap enough to give cushion for maintenance and put pressure on the Saints.

Carroll led 41-39 after 6-foot-1 junior Michaela Dowdy tallied on a hook shot from the key. Montana Tech responded with a jumper from Callie Remsen, from just inside the 3-point arc. Hattie Thatcher then broke the tie with a pullup 12-footer and followed it with a defensive rebound she turned into a coast-to-coast drive for a layup.

The Orediggers capped the key run with a layup by Shay Potter off a pretty pass from Remsen.

The spree gave Montana Tech a 47-41 advantage and Carroll was unable to catch up at anytime the rest of the way.

Thatcher and Remsen were honored seniors, too. Kimi Heng and Rachael Ferris rounded out the five.

“This was a big win,” Sanon acknowledged with a big smile.

She appreciated the difficulty, too.

“We came out with a lot of energy,” the coach said. “Then, they came back. We got some great looks at the basket in the second half, but didn’t score. But, we got some great stops on defense and that was probably the difference.”

The stops kept Carroll in check. Montana Tech owned a 16-0 lead after one quarter, closing the frame on 3-point baskets by Remsen and Kourtney Coverdell. Coverdell’s twin sister, Kaylynn, muscled in a layup on a power drive to the hoop, then shot a 17-footer after a pass from Thatcher, the school’s career assists leader. The two quick buckets expanded the Oredigger margin to 20-9 with 8 minutes, 14 seconds left in the half.

The Saints bounced back with an 8-2 run as Dowdy tallied five points in the surge. Dembek swished a 3-pointer and Kaylee Zard hooped a pair of free throws to put the Montana Tech lead at 10 points, 27-17.

However, Carroll closed the half with eight straight points to shrink the margin to 27-25 at intermission.

“When we moved in the zone, shots opened up,” Sanon said about adjusting at halftime. “Callie Remsen had a huge night off the bench for us, especially down the stretch. Martha had another double-double. We said all week the fours and fives had to block out. I think, right now, we’re playing pretty well.”

The Saints, though, led twice in the third quarter — 33-32 after Cassidy Ashley canned two foul shots, and 35-34 after Hashley scored on a drive. The Orediggers tied the score at 35-all on a Kourtney Coverdell charity toss and went ahead on two Dembek freebies. However, 6-1 Gardiner sophomore Hannah Dean, drove strongly through the paint and forced a shot through the hoop to knot the count at 37-all heading into the last quarter.

A pullup jumper by Dean gave Carroll an edge. Dembek squared the score at 39-all with two more free throws, and then Dowdy hit her hook shot for the Saints’ last lead. Remsen’s long jumper followed and ignited Montana Tech’s decisive run.

“Oh, it was great,” Dembek said, “beating Carroll, at home, on Senior Night, and for home-court in the playoffs. There’s not a better feeling.”

The Orediggers attacked Carroll in the paint, and spread the alignment to the perimeter to open up lanes. The ploy was successful.

“We talked in practice this week about how we wanted to be aggressive on offense,” Sanon said. “When our guards attacked them on the inside, then they had to have somebody help. That would be their posts and, tonight, it was Dean.”

Dean had to back off a bit after collecting her fourth foul, but remained a weapon on offense.

“Coach told us to drive the paint and get their posts in foul trouble,” Dembek said. “We did. Everybody stepped up tonight.”

Remsen led the Orediggers with 13 points, and Thatcher and Dembek tallied 11 apiece. Thatcher also dished five assists while the 5-9 Dembek came down with a team-high 10 rebounds.

Kourtney Coverdell had nine points, Kaylynn Coverdell and Potter four apiece, and Farris, Bailey Armbruster and Zard tallied two apiece. Heng, Monica Landdeck and Sammy McGree also played. The Orediggers finished the regular season with a winning record, 15-14, and evened their conference ledger at 9-9 going into the Frontier playoffs.

“I can’t believe four years are over,” Dembek said, reflecting on her career at Montana Tech. “The other four seniors made it fly by. Everybody on our team is close. The seniors have been through thick and thin together.”

Carroll dropped to 8-9 in conference play and 18-11 overall. The Saints will take on Lewis-Clark State on Saturday in Lewiston, Idaho, to finish the regular season.

Dean wound up with 19 points and 15 rebounds to pace Carroll. Hashley had 12 points. Hashley and Townsend senior Baylee Watson both checked in at 6-2, height-wise, while Dowdy, Dean and Taylor Salonen all brought 6-1 stature to the lineup. The Saints won the rebounds contest 35-30.