It had been more than a month, but the Saints finally got that winning feeling back.
The Carroll College women defeated Montana Tech 65-50 in Thursday Frontier Conference basketball action, avenging an earlier loss to the Orediggers, at the PE Center. It’s the second consecutive win for the Saints, who had not won consecutive games since late December.
Perhaps more importantly, the Saints (15-8 overall, 5-6 in conference play) won handily on the first night of a back-to-back. Second-ranked Lewis-Clark State College awaits Carroll Friday night in the PE Center.
“It was definitely one that you felt like you have to get,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. “The other one has more implications and pressure. I thought the kids came out and played great. We had contributions from everybody tonight. We talked about our bench contributing with significant minutes.”
The Saints’ bench outscored Tech’s 32-15, led by sophomore guard Sara Chalich’s 11 points, which led all scorers.
“We really needed this one,” Chalich said. “They got us last time and we came out and fought and got the W tonight.”
Tech couldn’t slow down Carroll’s efficient offense, which only turned the ball over 11 times. The first time the teams met Carroll had 16 turnovers and shot 37 percent from the field.
“Their guards got it going and down there we shut their guards down,” Montana Tech coach Carly Sinon said. “Their guards didn’t score against us (in Butte). Tonight in the first half they had six 3s. I think that was the difference in the game was their 3-point shooting.”
Carroll took a 14-11 lead after the first quarter thanks in part to six points from point guard Bailey Pasta.
The Saints were in rhythm from beyond the arc in the first half, hitting 42 percent of their treys on 6 of 14 shooting.
The first half became mostly a defensive, back-and-forth affair, with Carroll finding advantages on the boards, particularly on the offensive end where the Saints grabbed eight offensive rebounds.
Carroll started the second half on a 6-0 run with six straight points by Hannah Dean, pushing their lead to 10, the largest of the game. The Saints would go on to outscore the Orediggers 19-6 in the third quarter and never were threatened by the Orediggers again.
The margin allowed Carroll to rest starters Cassidy Hashley, who finished with 10 points and five rebounds, and Pasta, who finished with eight points. The luxury gives Carroll at least a chance to hang with the high tempo of Lewis-Clark College (23-0) on Friday.
“We didn’t want to have to play people 35 or 36 minutes, knowing the fast pace we face on a back-to-back night,” Sayers said. “LC is here and resting and probably watching the game. We knew that this was important. If we had to play kids 40 minutes to get the win, we would have.”
Carroll fully utilized its size advantage over Tech, something the Saints couldn’t do in Butte. While keeping their turnovers in check, the Saints also outrebounded the smaller Orediggers 40-25, including 10 offensive rebounds.
“That was a focus for us,” Sayers said. “Keep them off the foul line, limit our turnovers. We felt like that’s been real key. In the games we’ve lost, we’ve had twice as many turnovers as our opponents.”
The Saints looked to begin February with a refreshed mindset after going 3-5 in Frontier play. The Saints had won two of their last three to close the month, but still trailed the Orediggers by a game in conference -- until Thursday night.
Tech, similarly, had also won two of its last three. The Orediggers also earned that win over Carroll in Butte, taking down the Saints 66-55 in a game Sayers said the Orediggers were just tougher.
Thursday night, the Saints got ahead and didn’t meet much resistance from the Orediggers after the second half.
Carroll now focuses on Lewis-Clark State, against which the Saints stayed within striking distance for three quarters before the No. 2 team in the nation pulled away in the fourth quarter down in Lewiston.
“For (Friday), we have to be able to score,” Sayers said. “I think we can guard them. I think the kids are confident we can. You have to be able to score. You have to be able to get them out of that zone.”