No. 6 Saints pull away from Oredigger women

By Bruce Sayler

The Carroll-Montana Tech women’s basketball game wasn’t as physical as hockey, but it was about the boards.

Sixth-ranked Carroll topped the Orediggers 75-60 Thursday in a Frontier Conference game played in the Montana Tech HPER Complex in front of now crowd, as dictated by the COVID 19 spread prevention rules. (Stats)

The Saints dominated the rebounding by a 40-26 margin in caroms, and 6-2 post Jamie Pickens upped her game from their last tangle, scoring 19 points with five rebounds. Biggest on the boards for Carroll, though, was Christine Denny with 10 rebounds on the way to 13 points. The Saints grabbed 16 offensive rebounds, turned into second-chance scoring opportunities. They allowed Montana Tech only four rebounds on the offensive end.

“We had three keys we really worked on coming back off break,” Sanon said. “One was turning overe the ball, one was being more aggressive and the third was rebounds.”

The Orediggers flubbed a bit on the turnovers with seven more than their opponents’ eight. The aggressiveness flashed into light in the fourth quarter when Montana Tech outscored the Saints 21-19, but was blunted much of the game. Both teams shot 17 free throws, so it was kind of a wash.

Then, there was the third area of concern.

“We did not do a great job at rebounding,” Sanon said. “We were good on defense at forcing them to play faster and shoot (lower-percentage shots on the run). We were making them miss, but we didn’t get the rebounds.”

Carroll led first with a put-back from Pickens and then the Orediggers shot ahead to 5-2 as Mesa Williams caged a 3-point shot off a pass from Dani Urick before Tavia Rooney scored on a floater.

Pickens hit on a reverse layup against tight Montana Tech defense under the basket and then Oredigger post Brooke Heggie took a pass with her back to the basket, faked a move left and spun right to hit the short jumper. The home team had a 7-4 edge.

But, it wasn’t for long. The Saints went on a 11-2 run and snared the lead for good. Pickens and Denny scored four points each in the surge.

The Orediggers lurked close, but never caught up as Danielle Wagner and Sienna Swannack went on to join Pickens and Denny in double figures in the Carroll scoring columns. The first quarter ended with Carroll leading by 20-12.

The Saints effectively shut down Montana Tech’s outside attack and limited the Orediggers to 5-for-10 shotting from the 3-point area. However, the Orediggers compensated some with a competitive inside game. Heggie was strong in the paint in the second period while Urick and Williams both slashed to and through the key in trying to create more offense with the perimeter locked up by Carroll.

The Orediggers fired a 6-0 run on two Rooney free throws and jumpers by Mollie Peoples and Heggie to close the half. Carroll’s lead was 34-26.

Urick knocked down a follow shot and Madison Allen scored a fast-break layup off a steal and pass by Rooney as Montana Tech pulled to within four points of Carroll, 34-30, right after intermission.

The Orediggers were barely heard from again the rest of the third quarter. However, Wagner scored half of her 16-point total in the frame and Denny hooped a pair of 3s as the Saints took a 56-39 gap into the final quarter.

“Carroll is a good team,” Sanon said, shaking her head. “They have a lot of seniors and experience and are ranked No. 6 in the country (in NAIA). Denny, Wagner and Swannack were already good players and then they added Pickens.”
Pickens, a Helena High graduate, transferred to Carroll after a year at the University of Montana.

“Pickens was strong tonight,” Sanon said. “And, Wagner is really good. She’s a headsy player who is really good, offensively.”

Carroll Improved to 8-1 with the win and Montana Tech, inactive for two weeks before the Thursday game, fell to 1-3. Heggie led the Orediggers with 12 points and five rebounds. Urick scored 10 points. Williams finished with nine, Peoples with seven, Rooney six, Allen and Soda Rice, five apiece, and McKayla Kloker and Celestina Faletoi each scored three. Hailey Crawford, Jaden Comings and Aubrie Rademacher also played.

“We have to keep being aggressive,” Sanon said. “We got outboarded, tonight.”

The Orediggers are to play Providence of Great Falls on Monday and Tuesday in home games.

“It really is day-to-day,” Sanon commented about trying to run a program in these pandemic times. “You hope you test negative and that your opponent test negative. In four days, we play again, then in four days after that, we play. We have improvements to make.”