HELENA — The No. 21 Carroll College Saints are tough.
If that didn’t become readily apparent after the 59-54 women's basketball team win over Calgary on Friday, you only need to look as far as Hannah Dean for proof.
Dean broke her nose during the team’s trip to Hawaii before Christmas. She weighed having surgery or playing with a mask.
Come game time, Dean played without a mask. Broken nose and all. And the Saints played tough.
“That’s part of our identity,” Sayers said. “These kids are tough. There’s no quit in them.”
Carroll’s defense gave the Saints an early lead, and then the shooting propelled the Saints to a bigger lead.
The second quarter belonged to Bailey Pasta. More specifically, the corner of the court belonged to Pasta as the never-afraid senior drilled three 3-pointers, one in desperation to beat the clock, from the same location.
When the Dinos charged Dean on a catch and began suffocating the paint, daring the Saints to shoot from outside, Carroll appeared to show some year-over-year growth, taking and hitting 3-pointers at a high clip.
Then, the third quarter unraveled.
“I thought Calgary did a great job of trying to take us out of what we wanted to do,” Sayers said. “They were extremely physical and big and athletic. We struggled a bit offensively.”
Carroll’s steady shooting went kaput and the Saints generated only 11 points in the third quarter. Most of those points came in or near the paint or at the free-throw line. Carroll’s mid- and long-range shooting stalled. Pasta, who had carried so much of the shooting load early on, did not score in the third quarter, or for the rest of the game ending her night at 14 points.
Hustle plays and post-ups got the Saints back in front. Carroll took charges, caused turnovers, crashed the offensive boards and did everything a tough team does to win games. Carroll shot only 39 percent in the game and 31 percent from the 3-point line.
“Early in the season we weren’t getting her enough touches,” Sayers said. “I thought the kids did a good job of knowing when things weren’t going particularly well for us but the one thing they couldn’t guard was our inside game.”
And there was Dean, drawing charges and even taking a shot to her broken nose. Dean battled, Danielle Wagner and Brittney Johnson pulled down big rebounds and really every player didn’t shy away from a tough test from the Dinos.
The Saints had the added benefit of watching Calgary lose a close one against Montana Tech the night prior. Carroll got an up-close look of the Dinos’ style of play, and also got a sneak peek of a conference opponent the Saints will see in a few weeks.
“I thought we did a better job at transition defense,” Sayers said. “They got Tech with that. We wanted to make sure we kept them in front of us.”
Carroll has another Canadian challenger coming into the building on Saturday. Even if the shots aren’t falling for the Saints, at least this much is true: They’ll play tough.