HELENA — The Carroll College women’s basketball team is one win away from winning the Frontier Conference regular season outright.
Don’t expect much, if any, of the preparation and focus to waiver from what got the Saints to this point.
Carroll claimed at least a share of the Frontier Conference title with a win over Providence on Saturday in Great Falls. A momentous occasion for the Saints — it was the first regular season title under coach Rachelle Sayers — quickly became subject of some humor.
“We obviously said we didn’t want to share,” Sayers said.
Beyond that fleeting moment, a realization of a season-long goal, the Saints returned back to their focus and treatment of every game.
Even this week, when the Saints are the highest ranked team in the Frontier Conference and have others gunning for them, Sayers isn’t adding any more thought or attention to wins, losses and the meaning of each game.
Carroll has looked at every game as important, and that’s unchanging — especially now.
“That’s kind of been our deal all this year is really focusing on the process,” Sayers said. “Focusing on the things we have control of, the little things.”
With two home games remaining, including a Thursday-night contest against Lewis-Clark State (a team the Saints have defeated twice this season), Carroll needs just one win to claim an outright title.
Grabbing that No. 1 spot gives Carroll an accolade, sure, but more so the Saints gain home court advantage through the Frontier postseason.
“Home court in the playoffs is huge,” she said. “That’s a big incentive.”
Carroll at 13-3 in the Frontier, holds a two-game edge over Montana Western and Rocky Mountain College. Carroll finishes the season with Lewis-Clark State on Thursday, and then No. 15 Montana Western on Saturday — a matchup that comes with the added emotion of Senior Night.
“I think more than anything we’re not trying to make this weekend any different than the 16 games prior to,” Sayers said. “It’s been a long conference season and I think that we’ve improved and grown throughout the conference season.”
It’s been a season that’s seen the rise of underclassmen, the steady play of the Saints’ rocks in Hannah Dean and Bailey Pasta, and an entire roster-wide list of contributions. It was also a season that started on a low note.
The Saints knew they’d be without all-American Cassidy Hashley, who took a medical redshirt. Then guard Sara Chalich went down with a torn ACL, and the Saints had more questions than answers — at least early on.
With two games left in the regular season, the Saints have done more than answer any doubters: They’ve leaving nearly no room for doubt.
While it’s Dean’s stat-stuffing that draws a lot of attention, the depth off the bench has given Carroll steady output throughout the season. On any given night, the Saints can find a capable and willing scorer off the bench.
Even if Carroll secures the outright title on Thursday night, don’t expect the Saints to pump the brakes. Sayers knows the NAIA tournament committee places value in a team’s current makeup and momentum.
Sayers didn’t foresee any situations where she would rest her players on Saturday if the Saints had an outright title in hand already.
“You want to be the hot team,” Sayers said. “You want to be the hot team and have a win streak going.”