By Bruce Sayler
The Carroll fuse was delayed.
Once, Hannah Dean, Danielle Wagner and Company exploded, though, Montana Tech found itself out of chances. NAIA eighth-ranked Carroll picked up a 63-52 Frontier Conference college women’s basketball victory over the Orediggers Thursday in the Montana Tech HPER Complex. (Stats)
Dean finished 21 points and nine rebounds, and Wagner shot 10-for-19 from the field on the way to a game-high 28 points. Onlookers would be hard-pressed to remember her missing nine shots.
“Give them the credit,” Montana Tech head coach Carly Sanon after the Saints completed the three-game sweep over the Orediggers this regular season. “We held Hannah Dean in check the first two times we played them, but she got going tonight, And, it wasn’t from near the basket, it was more from away.”
Montana Tech bothered Carroll’s offense enough to hang with the Saints through the game. The Carroll defense, though, suppressed any upset designs the Orediggers might have entertained.
“We didn’t shoot the ball well — 28 percent makes it hard to beat the eighth-ranked team in the nation,” Sanon conceded.
Montana Tech led 13-10 after one quarter, thanks largely to Tjaden Pallister’s two free throws to finish scoring in the period, one she started with a 3-pointer. Mesa Williams then hit a basket on a jumper from the free throw line and the Orediggers owned a five-point spread 10 seconds into the second frame.
Carroll regrouped and redirected.
Wagner stepped out of the microwave afire. She scored 15 of her points in the first half, 13 in the second quarter and in a variety of ways. She tallied on 3s, she drove the hoop, she flipped in floaters and stuck back rebounds.
He 3-pointer cut Montana Tech’s lead to 19-17 with 6 minutes, 38 seconds left in the first half. Emma Madsen then netted a hook to tie the score. Mollie Peoples canned two foul shots for the Orediggers, giving them their lead of the game, 21-19.
Wagner broke the tie with a 3-pointer and Taylor Salonen drove the hoop as the Saints were off to a 12-0 run. Wagner scored two more times on it, a deep corner 3-ball and one-handed trick shot from the paing. Christine Denny capped the spree with a drive to the bucket. Only 47 seconds remained in the half and Montana Tech got the last two points before intermission a step-through drive by Hailey Crawford.
“In the second quarter, we lost our edge, lost our focus,” Sanon said. “We weren’t switching when or like we were supposed to do on defense. We missed some layups.
“We might be freshmen and sophomores, but there’s only one game left in the season. So, we’re not young anymore. We can’t keep making the same mistakes.”
Shooting was icy, and the rebounding was rugged territory for the Orediggers. Kaylee Zard muscled to 15 rebounds, and got some help from Pallister and Celestina Faletoi. Still, the Saints held a 14-rebound command on the boards, including 12 on offense.
“It was our youth,” Sanon noted, agreeing, too, that her team had Carroll reeling a little bit in foul trouble but was unable to capitalize. “We didn’t attack hard like we needed to and we didn’t get to the line. Kaylee Zard rebounded well, but we gave up too many offensive boards that were turned into a lot of Carroll and-ones. We gave up 12 offensive boards.
“It’s a disappointment because there were a lot of things we worked on and should’ve done better here and there.”
Carroll led 31-23 at halftime, but Montana Tech bounced back. The teams traded points to 35-26 when the Orediggers launched an 8-0 run with a short drive by Pallister. Faletoi followed with two charity tosses and Zard took a pass from Peoples for a layup. Williams finished the surge with a spin-move drive. The Saints lead had dwindled to 35-34 with 4:10 left in the third quarter.
However, the Orediggers scored only a pair of Dani Urick freebies the rest of the period. Carroll countered with 10 points — six by Dean — and took a 45-36 advantage into the final frame.
Montana Tech lurked close to the Saints, but couldn’t catch them. Peoples canned a 3-pointer wit 40 seconds showing to cut the gap to 57-52. Carroll mopped up by sinking six straight foul shots — four by Wagner.
The win polished the Carroll records up to 21-7 overall and 13-4 in conference.
Montana Tech fell to 13-15 and 3-14. Williams led the Orediggers with 13 points and Peoples finished with 12. Pallister had nine, Faletoi six, Urick five, Crawford four and Zard three. Lana Berg also played.
The Orediggers will finish the regular season on Friday with a 5:30 conference game against Rocky Mountain in the HPER Complex.