The Carroll College women's basketball team won its battle with Lewis-Clark State College on Saturday, but it came with big potential cost.
“I thought our kids just battled,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said. “They played so hard without our senior leader (Bailey Pasta) and then Hannah (Dean) fouls out. That’s a lot of adversity. At the end of the day we win by three. I’m proud of them. They deserve to be playing in a championship game.”
The Saints survived a last-second heave from LCSC to win 55-52 on Saturday, but the victory turned sullen for the peaking Saints as Pasta injured her knee in the first quarter.
“I know she’s got a hurt knee,” Sayers said. “I know it’s probably not very good. I know it’s a really crappy way to see a senior that has worked so hard and meant so much to our program to potentially end her career.”
Pasta reappeared in the second quarter for 30 seconds, but couldn’t continue.
In the second half, she sat on one chair and used a second one to elevated her heavily bandaged right knee. As her team continued to find ways to get it done against Lewis-Clark State, Pasta hollered encouragement from the sidelines.
The Saints could have used her leadership late in the fourth quarter.
Dean took over in the fourth quarter, converting a difficult left-handed lay-up and drew a foul to give the Saints a monstrous momentum crusher for the Warriors. Dean converted the free throw and then stole a pass on the other end of the floor.
Dean then scored on the other end of the court. Then, Christine Denny took a charge. A matter of four possessions and the Saints had suffocated the Warriors. At the end of it all, the Saints had 10-point lead with three minutes to go.
Then, the Warriors hit huge shots and turned the Saints over to get back in this one.
“I thought LC really turned up the heat at the end of the game,” Sayers said. “They made some big bombs and turned us over. I give them credit. They understand what this game meant to them.”
Lauren Johnson drilled a step back 3-pointer before the sides swapped free throws. Dean made two more and then Johnson struck again, this time a two-pointer.
Carroll logged four turnovers in the game’s final minute and a half, giving LCSC a chance to tie or win. Dean, who had a team high 14 points, also fouled out with 1:41 to go, putting additional pressure on the Saints’ youngsters who were now without veteran leadership.
“I give credit to the LC steam,” Sayers said. “They just got after us. We made quite a few mistakes but a lot that was caused by their pressure. (Abbie) Johnson hitting those shots contested, five feet beyond the three. Those are hard to guard.”
Johnson hit two free throws, and then Lauren Johnson, who finished with a game-high 16 points, buried another 3.
Jaidyn Lyman missed two free throws, and Lewis-Clark State had the ball trailing by two with seven seconds left.
LCSC threw the ensuing inbound pass away and then Taylor Salonen split two free throws.
Seven seconds on the clock and LCSC found Hailey Turner wide open on the wing, but the junior missed everything and the Saints survived.
“We dug ourselves in a deep hole,” LCSC coach Brian Orr said. “Carroll they just came out so aggressive. We just weren’t ready for the pressure. The thing that hurt us more than anything was offensive rebounds. I thought we defended with intensity, but then you give up a rebound and it takes the wind out of your sails.”
Carroll outrebounded the Warriors 37-23.
The Warriors had plenty to be proud of, fighting within a possession of the regular season champs. The game showed just how far the banged up Warriors had come during a frustrating season, one that saw LCSC lose its leading scorer to injury and play with a limited amount of bodies through a talented and deep Frontier Conference.
Orr minced no words sharing his disappointment. LCSC had come so close to winning a second consecutive playoff road game. Instead, LCSC’s season is over. All the Warriors can do now is find consolation in underclassmen that are sure to benefit LCSC for years to come.
“I was extremely proud of our players,” Orr said. “They kept battling the whole time. We had an opportunity to win or tie.”
Carroll is now one step away from adding a Frontier Conference postseason championship to its regular season title.
Right now, it looks like Carroll will have to do that without Pasta.