HELENA — The Carroll College basketball teams hosted their Purple and Gold scrimmages Thursday night at the PE Center.
The women’s team led off the action, playing two 15-minute halves and showing a good brand of basketball.
“I wanted to see us get up and down the floor,” Saints women’s coach Rachelle Sayers said. “I wanted to see our kids just play. I wanted our kids to get out and run and use their strengths. I was excited to see our freshmen get out there. I thought they did a nice job.”
The teams were divided relatively evenly, though the white team, coached by assistants JD Solomon and Gary Turcott, put on the better scoring display. Sayers sat near midcourt and watched her team work through press defenses and execute an up-tempo style of play.
“I like to sit back and watch and give them an opportunity to coach the girls and be able to watch both sides,” Sayers said. “Every once in a while I had a little input.”
The white team outscored the black 64-37, lead by freshman Christine Denny and senior Michaela Dowdy, both with 15 points. Dowdy also had a team-high nine rebounds.
“We probably had more turnovers than we’d be excited to have in a typical game, but I thought there were a lot of good things that came out of tonight,” Sayers said.
Junior guard Brittney Johnson added 13 points and a team-high four assists. Oona Harrington scored 10 points, followed by Hannah Dean’s nine points and six rebounds.
The women’s team features a class of four true freshmen, and they combined for 29 points. Along with Denny’s 15, freshman point guard Jaidyn Lyman and center Nikki Krueger each scored six, and swingman Molly McDermott added a bucket. All four looked like they could be contributors this season.
Whether players will redshirt is still to be determined.
“I think they’re ready to play,” Sayers said. “We haven’t had that discussion yet. I think they’re all ready. They’re all competing. They are extremely competitive. They raised the competiveness of our team and I love it.”
The Saints return three starters from last year’s team, and most of their rotation. All-American Cassidy Hashley is taking a medical redshirt.
The women open up their season Oct. 30 in an exhibition against the University of Montana. Until then, they will be practicing, lifting and conditioning in preparation.
“We have to be able to play a little faster than we played in the past,” Sayers said. “We’ve always been known for our defense and rebounding, and this year I think we’re going to be more offensive.”
The men’s team formatted their scrimmage with three five-minute periods. The scrimmage played out similarly to how the Saints compete in practice, only with fans present.
“It’s fun to put the uniforms on and let them get out there and run around in front of our fans,” coach Carson Cunningham said. “I know we’re really excited to start the season. At the same time, there’s plenty to work on. We got to play against a little zone, against some man. We got some offenses to run some different looks out of different defenses we saw.”
As All-American senior Ryan Imhoff and freshman guard Emilio Mancol sat out as they nursed injuries, the team was divided with six players on one team and five on the other. Senior guard Lorel Johnson led all scorers with 10 points, followed by junior guard Ife Kalejaiye’s nine.
Cunningham said many of his players stood out, but Kalejaiye’s play drew the most praise.
“I thought there was some really neat defensive execution,” he said. “I think if you’re a basketball aficionado and you watch a guy like Ife… He’s such a productive and efficient player. The way he understands spacing and the flow of all the guys, defensive and offensively, is phenomenal.
“You could talk about a lot of guys. We have lot of veterans. We have a chance to play good ball for good, hopefully really long, stretches -- ideally all season. We need to get better each day.”
The Saints only lost one contributor from an NAIA quarterfinals team, though it was their best player in Zach Taylor, who graduated with the second most points in school history. Several redshirt players also transferred. Guards Julian Vladimirov, Sam McMahon, Isaiah Hernandez and forward Connor Schenk (who left the program in-season last year) all have moved on.
In their place are three freshmen – guards Chase Burnham and Mancol, and forward Brad King – though it remains to be seen whether they will make the active roster.
Cunningham also turned the reigns over to his assistants Jesse Repay and Scott Menzies for the scrimmage.
“That’s great for them,” he said. “I’m really grateful for our coaching staff. They’ve putting in a lot of time and it was great that coach (Carlito) Labarda got to train up our younger assistants last year and now they’re taking on larger roles. It’s fun to see that. Certainly grateful Hasani (Simmons) can help out. We’re looking forward to getting better every day.”
The Saints open their season Oct. 21 in the PE Center against Yellowstone Christian College.