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Orediggers upset Saints

Orediggers upset Saints
Montana Tech's Dylan Pannabecker looks to shoot between Carroll College's Shamrock Campbell, left, and Thomas Austefjord Thursday night at the HPER Complex. (Bill Foley photo)

By Bill Foley

Thursday night did not seem like Carroll College was playing Montana Tech.

The HPER Complex crowd had more of a preseason feel, and you could almost hear the ball every time it hit the floor. If it wasn’t for a handful of football players cheering on the Orediggers, you would have.

The Frontier Conference men’s basketball game didn’t have close the same usual feel of what is generally one of the best rivalries in the NAIA. Not one “Eat s— Carroll, go Tech go” was uttered.

That, however, couldn’t put a damper on the Orediggers’ Thursday night. On the second-to-last night of the regular season, the Orediggers upset the No. 7-ranked Saints 69-66. (Stats)

Even if there wasn’t as many fans there to see it as they’d like, a win over Carroll is a win over Carroll.

“It was a great win all around for our guys,” Oredigger coach Adam Hiatt said. “I’m really happy for them.”

The loss was also a big one for the Saints, who were again playing without injured leading scorer Matt Wyman. It drops the Saints (12-5, 23-6) into a tie with Lewis-Clark State in the loss column for first place in the Frontier.

The win was anything ban an easy one for Hiatt to watch.

The Orediggers never trailed by more than two points, and Tech took a 29-27 lead into halftime

After the break, Tech slowly built a the lead as the Oredigger defense stifled the Saints.

Carroll did not make a field goal in the second half until Match Burnham scored on a putback with 10 minutes, 27 seconds left in the game.

“That’s been our calling card all year,” Hiatt said. “That’s what’s kept us in games and giving us a chance to win several games. We’ve had a terrific season as a result of our defensive presence.”

The coach said the Orediggers focused even more on defense this week because he felt they played subpar in that area last week.

“We need to get back to what makes us us,” Hiatt said.

Tech, which didn’t trail after the break, led by as many as 11 points in the second half. Carroll, though, wouldn’t go away.

The Saints inched closer and closer with help from a handful of key free throw misses from the Orediggers.

“If we would have made some free throws, the game wouldn’t have been that close,” Hiatt said with a laugh. “But hey, where’s the fun in that? A Tech-Carroll rivalry game in Butte should go down to the wire.”

When things got really hairy though, Tech had the answer.

Dan Warp buried a 3-poitner to pull Carroll to within 64-63 with 23 seconds left.

After a time out, Drew Huse through a football pass to a streaking Blake Dittman, who was doubled covered. Dittman came down with the bomb and laid in a bucket for a 66-63 lead.

“We made some great plays and hit some big shots in the second half,” Hiatt said.

Carroll’s Shamrock Campbell and Tech’s Nick Fitts each went 1 for 2 from the free throw line before Warp sank two from the stripe to make it 67-66.

Nate Ward extended the lead back to three at 69-66 with 7 seconds left in the game.

The Saints got off a game-tying shot. However, Warp’s fading 3-pointer from the corner hit the iron, mainly because Oredigger Derrius Collins was in his face.

“We kind of had an idea of what they were going to run,” Hiatt said. “You can see that we defended it pretty well because we had anticipated that.”

Dylan Pannabecker scored 13 points and grabbed eight rebounds to lead Tech’s balanced attack.

“Dylan Pannabecker was terrific tonight,” Hiatt said. “I thought he had a great approach, was really efficient. He worked for rebounds and gave us extra possessions.”

Taylor England, a Helena native who played two of his best games of the season in losses to Carroll in his hometown, scored 11 points and grabbed 10 rebounds.

“They tried to take away Taylor England,” Hiatt said. “They did a really good job, but he still ends up with a double-double because he is just a really good player. In my estimation he’s a first-team all-league guy. I hope the other coaches recognize that as well.”

Collins came off the bench to score 10 points along with his defense.

The Orediggers saw eight players score overall. Nate Ward scored nine points, Dittman and Troy Owens Jr. scored seven, and Fitts and Huse each netted six.

Christian Jones, Carson Dummer and William Mytty also contributed for Tech, which knocked off Carroll on its home court for the second straight season.

Burnham scored 22 points and pulled down nine boards to lead three Carroll players in double figures. Warp ended with 18, and Jovan Sljivancanin scored 13 and grabbed 15 rebounds.

The Saints also got eight points from Campbell, three from Thomas Austefjord and two from Ife Kalejaiye.

“They’re a great team,” Hiatt said of the Saints. “They’re obviously a little bit down tonight in terms of Matt Wyman didn’t play. We saw him warming up. We thought, ‘Of course he’s going to play. It’s the Tech-Carroll game.’

“He’s such a great player, and he makes a big difference for them. But they’ve got a lot of good players. Match Burnham is really good. Dane Warp. We did our best to limit him and he still ends up with 18 points. It just shows you how talented he is offensively.”

The Orediggers (6-11, 16-13) close the regular season at home Friday against Carroll College. The men play at 7:30 p.m. The women tip off the doubleheader at 5:30.

Hiatt said he isn’t focused on next week’s Frontier Conference playoffs. He’s worried more about Senior Night.

“We’re just trying to play our best,” the coach said. “We’ve got two seniors on the team, Carson Dummer and Gavin McPherson. Gavin hasn’t played this year much because he tore his labrum, so he was done for the season. We want to do our best to send them out on a high note.”



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