HELENA — Carroll College women’s basketball team is holding onto some pretty good momentum heading into the postseason.
After a very successful February that saw seven wins, the Saints clinched the No. 2 seed heading into next week’s Frontier Conference Tournament.
Regardless of a win or a loss against Rocky Mountain College on Saturday night at the PE Center, it would not affect their position come tournament time.
But Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers had no intention of resting her players.
The eighth-year coach stressed the importance of momentum and team chemistry as the Saints came away with a 55-43 victory against the Battlin’ Bears during the regular season finale for both teams.
The Saints secured second place in the Frontier Conference after the regular season and go into Tuesday's first round of the conference tournament at home against Montana Tech.
“Everybody is here because they want to compete,” Sayers said. “Obviously, you don’t want someone to get injured, but we are going to face these teams again and we want to come out of it feeling good about our plan and feeling good about preparing for each game."
Hannah Dean, one of the four Carroll College (22-7, 14-4) seniors who were recognized after the game, treated the first half as though it were her last at the PE Center.
She scored her team’s first seven points, not only being a presence in the paint, but also coming out to knock down a 3-pointer at the top of the arc if needed.
She finished with a team-high 19 points and said she had to put emotions aside and just play.
“Mostly I was just excited,” Dean said. “It’s always an emotional night, but I wanted to keep my cool and make some shots that (Rocky) was giving me.”
While Carroll had a clear vision of its postseason future, Rocky Mountain’s was murkier.
Sure, the Battlin’ Bears (19-11, 10-8) would be a part of the field, but where would they fit in?
Heading into the game, they were sitting in third place, three games behind Carroll, but with Lewis-Clark State nipping at their heels, a win was crucial.
Providence defeated Lewis-Clark State on Saturday, so the the Battlin' Bears remained in third place for a home game in the first round of the tournament against Montana State-Northern.
“We obviously wanted to control our own destiny,” Battlin’ Bears coach Wes Keller said. “We knew we wanted to win regardless of what Lewis-Clark State did.”
Rocky Mountain came within a single basket at three minutes until halftime, but the Saints put a stop to that.
They increased the lead up to six points during halftime and then by as many as 17 points in the fourth quarter.
While Dean has been a consistent scorer, she has received some help as of late.
A few weeks back it was sophomore Christine Denny, as recent as this past Thursday it was Danielle Wagner.
But against Rocky Mountain, it was Jaidyn Lyman who stepped up in a supporting role.
She finished tying her season-high of 16 points and added three rebounds and two assists.
Offense has been a struggle for Lyman, averaging just 4.6 points over her last three contests and shooting just 33 percent from the field, but her coach knows she has the confidence.
“She really got going with her defense.” Sayers said of Lyman. “Rocky was doubling off her and Jaidyn has a little bit of an edge when that happens. She is a great shooter and she is going to make you pay.”