Saints go wire to wire to drop Tech men in finale

By Bill Foley

The season came to an end for the Montana Tech men’s basketball team with a 72-54 Frontier Conference loss to Carroll College at the HPER Complex. Stats

The Orediggers never led against the No. 8 Saints, who ran their record to 24-5 overall and 14-3 in conference with their third win over Tech.

Ryan Imhoff tossed in 20 points and grabbed seven rebounds to lead the way. Zach Taylor was 3-for-3 from 3-point land. He joined Dan Warp with 17 points in the victory.

“When they had open opportunities, they capitalized like good teams do,” Tech coach Adam Hiatt said of the Saints. “If we made a mistake on Taylor, he hit a three. They got to the foul line in the second half, and they made every shot.”

The game was like so many the Orediggers played all year. Tech fell down big early, and the team made several runs to cut the lead. But every time it looked like the Orediggers were going to make it a game, the Saints pulled away again.

Also, the Orediggers once again battled until the end, something that made Hiatt proud as his team closed his first season in Butte. The Orediggers (7-22, 1-17) finished at the bottom of the Frontier Conference and did not qualify for the playoffs.

“We played hard,” Hiatt said. “They’re an extremely efficient offensive team. They played well below their typical game in terms of percentages. That’s a testament to the way the fellas defended.

“We had opportunities on the other side, and we didn’t capitalize at the same rate.”

Freshman Dylan Pannabecker scored 13 points to pace the Orediggers. Sophomore Lukas Vining and freshman big man Jordan Jones scored nine points, while junior guard Chris O’Neill tossed in eight.

“Dylan has been playing much better. That’s two straight games that he has played at a high level,” Hiatt said. “Chris was solid all game. He’s been solid all year. He’s been one of the better guards in the conference. Jordan Jones was really good, as well.”

The Orediggers also got seven points from John Chapman, four from Flemming Okeke, and two from Carson Dummer and Kale Guldseth.

Hiatt said from the start of the season his goal was to have his team improve from month to month. He said the Orediggers did that.

“First of all, I appreciate their effort,” Hiatt said of his Orediggers. “We haven’t had a lot of success in terms of wins and losses, and the team very well could have mailed it in months ago. Their effort until the very end was at a high level.”

“They did improve,” the coach added. “Our starting point was just much lower than other teams. We improved at a great level, and sometimes improvement doesn’t show up in results.”

Hiatt, who had a successful run as head coach at Westminster College before coming to town, said he was wowed by the support his team received all season.

“I really appreciate the support from the community,” he said. “It’s been astonishing for me. That says a lot about how Butte is. We’re not a top-tier team yet, and they still come out and support us. That excites us for the future.”

Hiatt called his first season a “foundation year.” When the Orediggers find success in the future, the coach said his team can point back to the 2016-17 squad as the one that got the ball rolling.

“We’ve got to improve our roster,” Hiatt said, already looking to the off-season. “We’ve got to bring in some talent that’s going to help us get over the hump. I feel like we have a good culture established now. It’s just now a matter of collectively improving — the guys who are returning and the new comers we’ve got to bring in.”

The Orediggers celebrated Senior Night before the game. The team honored Cale Jacobsen.

Jacobsen is technically a junior, but he is retiring from basketball after suffering his third torn ACL in December.