HELENA — For the last four weeks, Carroll College men's basketball player Matt Wyman could do nothing but watch.
He hyper-extended his knee back on on Feb. 1 against the University of Providence and has not played since.
So when the training staff finally cleared him, he didn’t pass up the opportunity.
Wyman scored 16 points as the Saints rolled past Montana Tech 81-64 in the Frontier Conference semifinals Saturday night.
“I was just ready to get back out there. I was a little anxious but mostly excited,” Wyman said. “It kind of sucks to watch your team play while you are sitting on the bench.”
While Wyman’s return ignited a spark throughout the offense, it did not overshadow the play of fellow forward Match Burnham.
Frontier Conference Tournament games are nothing new for Burnham, playing in his fourth semifinals in as many years.
By the nine-minute mark he already scored 11 points and grabbed six rebounds.
More importantly, his team held a 21-11 advantage.
Burnham showed he could pick up the scoring during Wyman’s absence, such as scoring 33 points on senior night, but with his teammate and friend by his side, he said it makes his life so much easier.
“He takes the pressure off all of us when he is on the court,” said Burnham, who finished with 21 points and 14 rebounds. “It was amazing having him back out there. It’s the Wyman effect.”
But even with Burnham’s best efforts, momentum shifted with about five minutes remaining in the first half.
Burnham was called for a flagrant foul to Montana Tech’s Derrius Colliins that sparked a 15-4 run.
By halftime, the Saints’ lead evaporated and the game was deadlocked at 30-30.
“We just played hard during that first half,” Montana Tech forward Taylor England said. “People didn’t pick us to get this far and we just kept asking ourselves, ‘why not us?’ We can go on a run.”
The Orediggers gave one last push when Dylan Pannabecker hit a 3-pointer in the corner to take the lead, but the Saints did not let up.
Carroll coach Kurt Paulson decided to crank up the tempo and his team found its touch beyond the 3-point arc.
Burnham, Jovan Slijivancan, and Shamrock Campbell all hit 3-pointers as the Saints shot 46 percent from distance and extended the lead to as many as 20 points.
The Orediggers tried to come back with scores by Carson Drummer and Nick Fitts, but Wyman sealed the game with a 3-pointer erupting the crowd.
“I felt good, but it’s been tough,” Wyman said. “I haven’t had to practice until recently and I had to go through a lot of rehab and strengthen my knee.”
Carroll now prepares for its fourth straight Frontier Conference championship game when it hosts Lewis-Clark State on Tuesday night.
As for Montana Tech, the Orediggers finish with 17 wins and its first postseason victory in 20 years, but will have to wait and see if their resume is strong enough to qualify for the NAIA National Tournament.
“We just have to believe,” said England, who finished with a team-high 15 points. “We believed this post season and look what it got us.”