Orediggers stuff Carroll men

The directive was written in big bold letters somewhere and Montana Tech Orediggers saw them everywhere.

They had to beat Carroll Saturday night in Frontier Conference college men’s basketball play. Carroll was struggling, is a fierce rival and a victory for Montana Tech could do wonders about stepping toward the postseason.

The Orediggers checked off the task, frustrating the Saints with enough stay-ahead energy to nail down a 73-60 win at the Montana Tech HPER Complex. Usual leader Adam Greger scored 21 points and glummed onto eight rebounds to, again, lead the win. Brandon Rydberg tossed in 16 points and Bryan Bock came up with a hard-earned 14.

The efforts, which came as a result of good passing and spacing, offset the 23 points netted by Carroll’s Dennis Mikelonis and 17 by Nick Jones.

“It was a great win,” Montana Tech head coach Aaron Woliczko agreed. “Being able to sweep Carroll was really something we were looking forward to. I’m ecstatic about that.”

The coach pointed to good court awareness and teamwork as the operatives in the final result.

“There were two big differences in the game (for the win),” Woliczko said. “Difference one was we took six charges. Those are gambles, but that could’ve been 18 points for them (if the calls had gone the other way).

“The second difference was we had 19 assists to five turnovers. Anytime you have to go against a zone and have 19 assists, that’s awesome. We were in attack mode the whole game.”

Carroll was unable to defend well enough in the paint, or beyond. An alert Montana Tech offense was able to take advantage.

“Credit Daniel Simon on his internal passing and Roman Pruneda-Garza on his perimeter passing,” Woliczko said. “Each had seven assists.”

Simon’s passing was important late in the game when the Saints tried to push the Orediggers into an outside game and test the shooters.

It was also a gut-check for Montana Tech. Woliczko cut the playing rotation to seven players, partly because of the loss of Tanner Neumann, and partly for continuity. The coach said it was a challenge the team passed, needing to learn to fight and play through aches, cramps and bumps.

Neumann, a Butte Central product, suffered a broken foot recently and will be out of commission for four to six weeks, Woliczko said.

“The guys want to still be playing four to six weeks from now so that Tanner can rejoin us,” the coach said.

Carroll held a 35-33 edge at halftime, largely due to the solid all-around play of Mikelonis. The Orediggers had rallied in the last five minutes of the half to reel the Saints back in after Carroll looked set to gain a commanding lead.

Bock’s tip-in six seconds before halftime narrowed the gap to two points and clinched the momentum factor for the home team.

The halftime lead was Carroll’s last. Montana Tech tied the score on a rebound basket by Rydberg and then went ahead when Bock drove to the hoop, hung in the air as a defender flailed by, and knocked in the layup. The Saints tied the count one more time on a pair of Jones free throws.

Then, the Orediggers took off on a 10-2 run started by a Greger 15-footer and  capped by two Simon baskets.

Carroll got back to within 56-54 on a short jumper by Jake Hollifield 6 minutes, 12 seconds left before Montana Tech got a 3-point bucket from Rydberg, layup by Bock fed to him by Simon, and a dunk by Quinn Smith.

The Saints’ attempts to stay in were then reduced to TSA-ing Orediggers to stop the clock and hope to rebound Montana Tech free throw misses. However, Montana Tech didn’t falter. The Orediggers sank eight straight free throws in the last minute and a half to sew up the win. Travis Peevey caged four of them.

“It was a great weekend of playing defense for us,” Woliczko said. “In the first half tonight, though, it was not really what we wanted — giving up 35 points. That would be 70 for a game. In the second half, it got better (holding Carroll to 25 points) and it was good all game against Great Falls (Friday).”

The win put Montana Tech at 13-10 for the season, including a 4-5 Frontier Conference record. Carroll is now 1-19 and 0-9.

Montana Tech’s reigning Frontier Conference football team was honored at halftime.

Tech-Carroll men’s stats