BUTTE -- Kourtney Coverdell canned a 3-pointer to put Montana Tech up a dozen with about four minutes left and Hattie Hatcher flexed her arms, letting out a roar.
For the second time in a week, the Orediggers were on their way to upsetting a powerful foe.
Martha Dembek finished with a game-high 20 points and the Orediggers grabbed a 66-55 win over No. 25 Carroll College on Thursday at the HPER Complex in Butte.
Prior to the game, the Orediggers (9-8 overall, 3-3 in Frontier Conference play) honored Dembek for scoring her 1,000th career point. Dembek had put up 26 points during Montana Tech’s loss to Rocky Mountain last week, and received a ceremonial ball to honor the achievement.
“I kind of had that in the back of my mind,” Dembek said afterward. “We had to come up and show up.”
The Orediggers certainly did that.
Carroll's Hannah Dean picked up two quick fouls in the game’s first four minutes as she attempted to take a charge. Dean, the Saints’ third lead scorer, did not reenter the game for the rest of the half.
The Saints (12-5, 2-3) grabbed an 18-16 lead after one, but from there on out Tech outscored the Saints in every quarter.
“We've got to get tougher,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. “It’s a tough league. This league is as good as it’s ever been. People have decided that the way to beat Carroll is to really get into them and be physical and be aggressive. We’re not responding well to it. We’re getting beat time and time again to loose balls, got outrebounded by a team that is half our size, and it has to do with our physical aggressiveness. That has to be addressed.”
The Saints got a big effort from Cassidy Hashley in the first half, but even that didn’t match the Orediggers.
In the second quarter, Hashley started the scoring for the Saints hitting a wide open 3-pointer. Hashley’s defender, Rachel Farris, just shrugged her shoulders and looked at Orediggers coach Carly Sanon -- who shrugged back. Farris sagged way off Hashely and dared her to make the shot. The Orediggers doubted Carroll’s All-American forward. Hashley would be given ample space twice in the quarter, and hit on both attempts, the first giving her 1,000 career points.
The first half became a bit of a scoring contest between both recent 1,000-point scorers, Hashley and Dembek. Hashley finished with 14 points at the half and Dembek had 12, a good portion of her scoring coming from the free-throw line, where she went 5 of 5.
The Orediggers hit 10 of 11 free throws in the opening half compared to the Saints’ 6 of 8, putting the Saints in a bit of a hole. The Saints’ 10 first-half turnovers certainly didn’t help matters, either.
“We’re guarding well enough and we’re shooting well enough,” Sayers said. “We only have five turnovers second half. We just are losing the battle of the toughness. We have to get that fixed.”
In the second half, the Orediggers outscored the Saints 34-23, steadily pushing a lead while containing Carroll’s offense and outrebounding the Saints 39-36.
“Their posts are huge and we’re small compared to most teams in the Frontier, so we we have to have backside help and be constantly talking,” Dembek said.
Dembek finished with 20 points and 8 rebounds, scoring eight points in crucial situations for the Orediggers.
“I knew I needed to get to the hoop and draw some fouls, maybe get their team in foul trouble and get a spark for the team,” Dembek said. “Once we’re all clicking, it’s so fun to play with these girls. I’m so stoked for the rest of the season.
The Orediggers jumped back into conference play last week doing something no other team had this season: Defeating Montana Western. Two nights later, however, the Orediggers fell in Billings to split the weekend, 1-1.
The Saints entered the evening on a six-game winning streak, including a 2-0 start to the breadth of Frontier play last weekend. On a night Hashley reached a scoring milestone, the Saints couldn’t pair it with a win. The junior finished with 18 points and five rebounds.
The Saints next travel to Lewiston, Idaho, to meet the No. 2-ranked Lewis-Clark State College Warriors on Saturday.