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HELENA — Michaela Dowdy has always been able to hit free throws in practice.

“She was always one of those players that was hitting them in practice and then we got to the games and she’d miss a couple and then sometimes she wasn’t able to recover from that,” Saints coach Rachelle Sayers said.

Now, she’s hitting them in games.

On Tuesday, Dowdy went 9-for-10 from the free-throw line en route to 21 points. The Saints needed all of them to stave off a pesky Rocky Mountain team in overtime and maintain first place in the Frontier.

Something clicked for the Capital High alum and Helena native when the Saints took their Hawaii trip. Dowdy went to the sun-soaked state shooting 10 of 23 for 44 percent, a small sample size, but also consistent with her 2016-17 campaign when she shot 44 percent on 25 of 57.

“She had a great weekend in Hawaii that got her started,” Sayers said.

Dowdy over the past seven games has shot 36 of 45, an 80 percent clip. In that same span the Saints are 6-1.

“The Hawaii trip was good for her because she had two back-to-back games and she hit her free throws and get her confidence,” Sayers said. “I think it’s her gaining that confidence by making them in some games. Now she steps up with a lot of confidence.”

Dowdy, as her on-court time has surged this season, is being relied on more to hit shots. Thanks to the extra practice time, she’s punishing opponents who afford her a chance at the line.

“They were really, really bad,” said Dowdy, laughing after Carroll’s win over Rocky in the PE Center. “We’ve been working on them. Hannah (Dean) has been helping me. Coach has been helping me.”

Dean’s free-throw shooting, no coincidence, is on the rise, too.

“Every day,” Dean, laughing, chimed in of the practice time.

Dowdy will shoot more in practice during drill situations, simulating game situations when possible. Dowdy’s stayed true to her form, emphasizing only patience at the line.

“I feel like I don’t rush my shot,” she said. “I would rush it a lot and not follow through all the way. My coach said you can shoot them but don’t rush them. That’s what I changed.”

And Dowdy knows if she’s to make the most of her court-time, she must make her shots.

“(Coaches) definitely know if I wanted to play I had to keep them up,” Dowdy said. “I’ve definitely been working on them.”

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