As Carroll College, a team hamstrung by injury and illness, crisply turned a new page on Friday, the Great Fall Argonauts’ season added a new descriptor.
It was Warped.
Freshman forward Dane Warp scored 24 points and pulled down 7 rebounds as the No. 8 Carroll College Saints besieged the Argonauts, 76-58.
“Really impressed by the fellas’ ability to step up when called upon,” Saints coach Carson Cunningham said. “A guy like Dane Warp, he’s worked so hard and we know he’s a fantastic, dynamic player. He’s just putting all the pieces together. He did that tonight in a big way.”
Warp gave the Saints (22-5 overall, 12-3 in Frontier Conference play) a bit of everything, deftly executing and producing through the Saints’ tweaked offense, running the fast break and filling lanes, or showing his resiliency on the defensive end. As he exited the game for the final time on Friday night, fans rose to their feet, inspired by the grit of the freshman.
“I had fun playing within the offense and really just focusing on defense and that opens up things on the offensive end,” he said.
For clarity’s sake, it was Warp’s night, but a slew of Saints stood out.
“We’re pretty depleted, so everybody has to step up so it’s just a total team effort,” Warp said. ”We expect every conference team to be tough. Everybody is working hard and everybody is coming together to get these big wins.”
The Saints employed a variety of lineups against Great Falls (11-16, 3-13), giving many players serious run -- a feat that was impossible a week ago as injuries pinched the Saints and a quick turnaround between games. As the Saints searched for answers after fourth-leading scorer and lynch pin Oliver Carr went down with a season-ending knee injury, the Saints scrambled to prepare before dealing with a hot-shooting Rocky Mountain College.
Nearly a week’s load of practice showed the Saints are yet rife with talent.
“Getting some time was huge for us. Playing that many games while battling through those injuries created a challenge,” Cunningham said. “On the backside, it was nice to get some time and try to improve the rhythm and also put together some new type of action.”
Warp took advantage of his first-half march, displaying the high-powered offensive game that many of the state's high school fans had come to expect from the Havre standout. Warp finished the first half making 6 of 10 shots for 15 points, leading all scorers.
His production became a necessity after Carroll’s court generals, Ryan Imhoff and Zach Taylor, both picked up two fouls. Imhoff played only two minutes in the first half. Taylor lasted about 10 minutes before collecting a second foul and being relegated to the bench.
The Saints grabbed a 39-27 lead before halftime.
“I’m impressed by the guys’ moxie and their ability to adjust,” Cunningham said. “It’s weird because it’s mid-February but we’re still developing. We’re more of a work in progress so to speak. I think we’re going to keep learning and developing this new-look roster we have available.”
The Saints producing beyond their potent stars is not a phenomenon. Carroll showed part of its depth when it defeated Lewis-Clark State in overtime without its three leading scorers on the court just a few weeks ago.
“Steven Helm, another freshman, gave us big minutes, but a lot of guys on defense: Lorel Johnson playing big minutes, Ife (Kalejaiye) playing great defense, (Matt) Wyman playing the five, (Alejandro) Santos guarding bigs and getting out,” Cunningham said.
When at points it looked like it took less pressure to produce a diamond from coal than it would to get a bucket from the Saints’ offense at Rocky last Thursday, Friday looked the opposite. Saints interchanged into roles and positions and executed, scoring points, buffing the edges of an offense that produced 76 points and made 49 percent of its shots.
And while the final score suggests the game didn’t have much drama, Great Falls played a fine first half before succumbing to turnovers and the Saints’ offensive rebounding advantage.
“We came out with good spirit and I thought we started the game out really well, especially considering the last two games we played,” Great Falls coach Anthony Owens said.
The Saints had defeated the Argos 94-56 and 71-32 this season.
“I was happy about that but there’s a couple of things we have to tweak and get ready for because we can’t have those kind of games.
“We can’t come into the No. 8-ranked team and freaking turn it over ... it says 16 on (the stat sheet), I know it was more than that. We can’t turn it over double-digits and then also give up double-digit offensive rebounds. That’s always going to be a loss.”
The win breaks the Saints’ hellacious week and losing streak.
Carroll hosts MSU-Northern at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. The game will be Zach Taylor’s Senior Night.