The Frontier Conference women’s basketball playoffs begin on Wednesday night.
Carroll College, with its 22-7 record including 14-4 in conference, earned a first-round bye and will await the lowest seed in the semifinals, which are scheduled for Saturday.
No. 15-ranked Montana Western took the second seed, finishing the season 23-7 and 13-5 in the Frontier. The Bulldogs will host the No. 7-seed Montana State-Northern Skylights on Wednesday in Dillon.
“It’s going to be hard,” Western coach Lindsay Woolley said. “Northern is playing really well right now. They’re probably playing as well as they have all year. They always play us tough. The way they control tempo and defend, anything can happen.”
It’s the fourth meeting between the teams. Western defeated MSU-N all three times in the regular season, winning 78-58, 67-51 and 62-57. The margin of victory narrowed all three games as the Skylights improved late in the season.
Western made tweaks of its own in January. When a three-game losing streak derailed the Bulldogs’ early season momentum, they changes to the lineup were made.
“We changed our starting lineup and moved Britt Cooper to the five,” Woolley said. “We decided to play small. Sometimes you just have to keep it simple and get your five best players on the court.”
The Bulldogs did that and went 13-1 the rest of the way. Led by Brianna King’s scoring and distributing — her skills have her in consideration for conference MVP — Western was the only team in the regular season with a winning record against conference champion Carroll College.
Northern on the other hand lost all-American Jacy Thompson after 19 games and an already young roster had more growing pains to go through in her absence. The Skylights went 3-15 in conference, but did find a 21-point win in the regular season finale.
Rocky Mountain College earned the third seed and hosts No. 6-seed Montana Tech. The Battlin’ Bears posted an 11-7 record in the Frontier and also cracked the 20-win threshold with a 21-7 record overall.
The Battlin’ Bears leaned on Mikaela Jones and Brooke Jones for a balanced scoring attack this season. That, alongside a defense that ranks No. 3 in the NAIA giving up 51 points per game, make the Battlin’ Bears capable of winning every contest.
Rocky went 3-0 against the Orediggers in the regular season, winning in overtime 71-68 in the last matchup in Billings.
Led by Shay Potter and Kourtney Coverdell, who both score more than 10 points per game, the Orediggers will see if they have Rocky figured out in the fourth meeting.
No. 4-seed Providence hosts No. 5-seed Lewis-Clark State College in the remaining quarterfinal.
Providence went 10-8 in the Frontier this season and 19-10 overall. The Argonauts posted a 2-1 record against Lewis-Clark State, losing the final matchup in Lewiston, 58-51. The Argos won both contests in Great Falls.
Providence has received stellar play from player of the year candidate Stephanie McDonagh and standout freshman Parker Esary.
Lewis-Clark State closed out the regular season with a 61-56 win over Rocky Mountain College. Behind standout freshman Peyton Souvenir, the Warriors began their rebuild after 2016-17 season culminated in a national championship appearance.