Just when it looked like Rocky Mountain College might cruise to its first Frontier Conference win, Carroll College came back in typical Saints fashion.
Showing tenacity, heart, and a never-say-die attitude, the Carroll women’s basketball team rallied from a 10-point deficit to beat the Battlin’ Bears 68-54 Thursday in the PE Center. The win was Carroll’s fifth in the last six games.
“We came out a bit flat, but none of us wanted to lose; we’re all competitors,” said Saints sophomore Katie Estey, who finished with nine points, three assists and a team-high three steals. “The season’s almost over, and there was no way we could live with ourselves if we lost this game. If we didn’t show our heart and passion that we know we’re capable of, it’d be bad news.”
Rocky looked nothing like its 7-13, 0-11 record early on, storming out to a double-digit lead against the Saints (13-9, 6-5). The Bears got hot from the perimeter, canning 7 of 14 from the 3-point line in the first half, and Carroll didn’t have an answer for Rocky senior guard Brittany Kumm. Meanwhile, the Saints struggled to hit much of anything, going 9 for 30 from the field in the first 20 minutes.
“At this time of year, everybody’s beat up and sick, and we’ve been healthy,” third-year Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers said. “But I think it’s starting to catch up to us a little bit.
“Teams at this time do one of two things: They continue to work hard and improve, or these are the dog days and they’re tired and sore, and they give in to that. But I think this team will definitely continue to fight.”
The Saints did that on Thursday, finally getting into a rhythm in the final minute before halftime. Carroll closed out the half with seven unanswered points, coming on baskets from Estey and Kalee Junkermier and a pair of free throws by Bailey Snelling. Jordan Bagley played inspired defense on the other end of the floor, coming up with a rebound, a steal, and forcing another Bears turnover to send the Saints into the locker room trailing just 32-29. Carroll had trailed by 10 with 2:26 to go, after Kumm capped a 10-2 Rocky run with her fourth 3-pointer of the evening.
The momentum the Saints carried into the break spilled over in the second half, and Carroll regained the lead at the 18:46 mark on an Estey bomb. The hosts scored 14 unanswered points and never trailed again, despite sloppy play in the final four minutes.
“We didn’t have great energy and we didn’t come out as intense, but we finally realized we had to dig in,” Sayers said of her team’s comeback, the second straight home game they’ve played from behind.
The Saints were also finally able to shut down Kumm, as the Great Falls native scored just three of her 15 points in the second half.
“We were just more aware of her and were careful to not let her spot up and shoot,” Sayers said of Kumm, who posted her second straight 15-point game after a big performance against Westminster.
Strong guard play was key for the Saints as well on Thursday, as Estey, Junkermier and Snelling combined for 51 of the team’s 68 points.
“We’re starting to click and build that chemistry, and it’s nice for all of us to have a big game at the same time,” Estey said. “We’ve been waiting all year for that.”
Snelling led all scorers with 21 points and six assists. Junkermier finished with 18 points and four rebounds. Carroll had a good assist-to-field goal ratio for the second straight game as well, finishing with 15 assists on 23 makes.
“We’ve worked a lot and talked a lot on the draw and kick, and a lot of those 15 assists came on the draw and kick out of transition,” Sayers said.
After shooting just 30 percent in the first half, Carroll made 66 percent — and 7 of 9 treys — after the break. Bagley played a big role in that stretch, scoring 10 of her 12 points in the second half.
Jordan Johnston grabbed six rebounds to help Carroll to a 27-23 edge on the boards, but the Bears bench outscored Carroll’s reserves 21-4.
Carroll takes its two-game win streak on the road Saturday, for a big showdown with third-ranked Westminster (17-2, 11-0). The defending-champion Griffins beat the Saints 69-46 earlier this year.
CARROLL 68, ROCKY 54
Rocky — Taylor Kufeld 2-7 1-2 5, Mya Perro-Donovan 2-2 2-2 6, Kelsey George 0-0 4-4 4, Brittany Kumm 5-11 0-0 15, Peyton Spencer 1-6 0-0 3, McKenzie Webinger 0-0 0-0 0, Kayla Lucas 2-3 0-0 5, Allie Seauvageau 0-0 0-0 0, Brittany Myers 1-7 5-6 8, Megan Halstead 4-6 0-0 8. Team totals 17-42 12-14 54.
Carroll — Baylee Watson 2-4 0-0 4, Jordan Bagley 4-5 4-4 12, Kalee Junkermier 7-10 0-0 18, Bailey Snelling 5-11 7-7 21, Katie Estey 3-7 1-2 9, Mikala Osborne 0-0 0-0 0, Jordan Pfau 1-8 0-1 2, Alison Sullivan 1-2 0-0 2, Jordan Johnston 0-5 0-1 0, Kaye Bignell 0-0 0-0 0. Team 23-52 12-15 68.
Halftime — Rocky 32, Carroll 29. 3-pointers - Rocky 8-19 (Kufeld 0-1, Kumm 5-11, Spencer 1-4, Lucas 1-2, Myers 1-1); CC 10-18 (Junkermier 4-4, Snelling 4-7, Estey 2-3, Pfau 0-4). Rebounds - Rocky 26 (Kufeld 4, Kumm 4); CC 28 (Johnston 6). Assists - Rocky 13 (Kumm 5); CC 15 (Snelling 6). Personal fouls - Rocky 17, CC 9. Fouled out - none. Technicals - none.