HELENA -- For months now, it seemed like the Montana Western women’s basketball team has been a lock for a Frontier Conference Championship.
But the Bulldogs shouldn’t get too ahead of themselves on picking out a place to display the trophy.
Their lead atop the conference standings is being challenged … by one team at least.
Can Carroll be a threat? Can Rocky Mountain or Providence play spoiler?
Let’s take a look in the most recent power rankings. Agree or disagree? Let me know on Twitter at @rskuhn.
1. Carroll College (18-7, 10-4 Frontier)
I don’t know what was said after Carroll's 56-53 loss to Providence on Feb. 1.
But whatever coach Rachelle Sayers said, worked.
The eighth-ranked Saints have won their last three games, including a 55-50 upset win over Montana Western on Friday.
One big reason could be the play of senior Hannah Dean.
You can tell that Dean is enjoying her senior season after scoring a career-high 29 points against Montana State-Northern on Feb. 2.
Add some role players in there like Christine Denny, Jaidyn Lyman and Danielle Wagner and the Saints are playing some great basketball at the right time.
2. Montana Western (21-2, 12-2)
It’s hard to put Montana Western too far down on the Power Rankings.
After all, the Bulldogs are the No. 3 team in the nation.
But Montana Western showed some weaknesses, especially against Carroll last Thursday.
Bulldogs’ senior point guard Brianna King has shown to be a dominant scorer, but she struggled against the Saints, shooting 6-for-16 from the floor and 1-for-8 behind the 3-point line.
Players are going to struggle, but if Montana Western wants to keep their record among the top in the nation, other players like Cierra Lamey and Britt Cooper are going to have to step up, especially when King is not playing at her normal level.
3. Lewis-Clark State (18-7, 8-6 Frontier)
Remember how I have been saying how even Lewis-Clark State and Rocky Mountain have been this season?
Well the Warriors might have been listening, because they proved me wrong.
They handled Rocky Mountain this past Thursday with a 66-42 win at home.
The Battlin’ Bears shot just 23 percent from the field and 11 percent from the 3-point line.
Lewis-Clark State guard Cali Moscript also dominated from the opening tipoff as she finished with 23 points, seven rebounds and shot 75 percent from the field.
Despite losing big to Carroll on Saturday, the Warriors had a good week and received some good momentum heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
4. University of Providence (17-9, 6-8 Frontier)
I’m kind of surprised that Providence didn’t have a better week, riding the momentum from two big wins the week prior.
I could have dropped the Argos to fifth in the power rankings above Rocky Mountain, but their dominant win at home against Montana Tech changed that.
Providence has struggled against the Orediggers all season, so I’m sure coach Bill Himmelberg was excited to get a win.
The duo of Parker Esary and Emilee Maldonado came to play with 16 points apiece.
It’s another big week for the Argos when they travel to Rocky Mountain and Carroll. Two wins and some help from Lewis-Clark State can push them up in the standings.
5. Rocky Mountain (16-10, 7-7 Frontier)
Rocky Mountain drops in this week’s Power Rankings because of two losses to Lewis-Clark State and Montana Western.
With how tight the third-, fourth- and fifth-place teams are in the Frontier Conference, wins are crucial.
Sure the Battlin’ Bears hung with Montana Western this past Saturday, but at this point in the season, an upset win is crucial to a team’s momentum.
Look for Alecia Chamberlin to have some big games at home against Providence and Montana State-Northern.
6. Montana State-Northern (12-14, 4-10 Frontier)
It was a great week for the Montana State-Northern Skylights.
Unfortunately, two consecutive wins for the first time since before Christmas isn’t going to move you that high in the Power Rankings.
It did show some separation from last-place Montana Tech after a 52-51 win where Sydney Hovde scored a double-double with 13 points and 11 rebounds.
The only way Northern’s season can be extended is if they make a run and win the conference tournament.
Let’s see what happens.
7. Montana Tech (12-13, 2-12 Frontier)
Montana Tech had another bad week, with two losses to Montana State-Northern and Providence on the road.
The Orediggers have struggled this season away from Butte, with their only wins coming against Salish Kootenai College and NCAA Division III Whitworth College.
Maybe Tech would do better in the Northwest Conference, but until that happens, it needs to find a way to win, especially on the road.
I don’t think the five-game losing streak will stop this week as they face Montana Western and Lewis-Clark State, but Frontier Conference teams have proved me wrong before.