Another midweek game introduces another layer of chaos in the Frontier Conference slate for the Saints this week.
Shortly after a disheartening loss to No. 22 Western on Tuesday night, the Carroll College women’s basketball team (16-9 overall, 6-7 in Frontier play) reviewed film and started to put their attention on Rocky Mountain College (12-12, 4-8), a team that has shaped a new identity since losing its leading scorer a month ago.
“Offensively they found some things that are working better for them,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. “Defensively they’re causing a lot of havoc. They have some size as well. Next to us, they start one of the biggest lineups in our conference.”
Rocky’s top scorer, Mikayla Jones, has not been in the lineup since sustaining an ACL injury on Jan. 13 against MSU-Northern. The Battlin’ Bears have gone 3-5 since Jones’ injury, including two wins over No. 13 MSU-Northern.
Rocky has won its last two games, defeating MSU-N and Great Falls.
Hailee Farstveet had 21 points in the win over the Skylights, and three other Battlin’ Bears reached double digits. Then, against the Argos, Farstveet had 20 points, capping off a big week from the 5-foot-11 junior guard.
“I think they’re definitely playing better,” Sayers said. “They had two big wins last week. They’re getting a lot of different contributions, and obviously Farstveet has had big games. They’ve had kids really step up. (Markaela) Francis has improved. Justyn Juhl has improved. Really, everybody has improved since that last time we played them.”
Carroll and Rocky both enter the game with strong defenses. Carroll gives up 55 points per game on averege while the Battlin’ Bears yield 61.
Keisha Engelhard’s 12.5 points per game and Farstveet’s 10.4 lead Rocky.
The Saints have defeated Rocky twice this season, winning in Billings in December, 62-54, and defeating the Battlin’ Bears 71-50 in Helena on Jan. 21.
In the second matchup, Jones’ offensive production was sorely missed, as the Saints pounded Rocky inside with Cassidy Hashley and Hannah Dean. Rocky didn’t have any defensive answers during that matchup.
Something has revitalized RMC’s scoring. In their last two games, the Battlin’ Bears have averaged 70.5 points.
Carroll brings the third-ranked defensive rebounding unit into the game, pulling down 30 boards a night. The Saints also have the No. 6 defense in the country, giving up an average of 55 points per game.
Carroll had carried a three-game winning streak into its game against No. 22 Montana Western, but fell flat against the Bulldogs, losing 61-43. Carroll’s shooting percentage dipped far below its season average and the Saints had issues dealing with Western’s point guard Aniese Palmore and post Kaye Bignell. In the loss, Carroll recorded nine first-half turnovers before remedying itself in the second half to outscore Western 32-29. The first half deficit, however, was too much for the Saints to overcome.
Cassidy Hashley’s 14.6 points and 9.6 rebounds per night lead the Saints. Bailey Pasta also adds in 10.8 points per contest.
The Saints, amid players’ class schedules, carved out a 45-minute slot for a walk-through in Helena on Wednesday, but even then their travel plans were disjointed. Part of the team bused to Billings on Wednesday evening, while Sayers remained behind to drive four additional Saints after they completed a lab.
“We’re used to the short turnaround,” Sayers said. “It’s real short to have four games in seven days. We have 40 minutes to play tomorrow night, an opportunity to play better.”
Carroll’s relatively healthy going into Rocky, though Dean will be “laboring a little bit,” Sayers said, with a lower back issue that’s plagued her recently. Baylee Watson will also continue to deal with arthritis that has affected her this season.
The Saints tip off against Rocky at 5:30 p.m.