BUTTE — Carroll College went on a 12-2 run to end the first half to take the lead and the Saints never really gave up control after that as they beat Montana Tech 63-52 in a rivalry showdown.
It was the third win for the Saints over the Orediggers this season.
After a slow start for both teams, Tech hit a few shots early in the second quarter to build a five-point lead, but the eight-ranked Saints soon stormed back. With star forward Hannah Dean battling foul trouble, Dani Wagner had 15 of her game-high 28 points in the first half and was instrumental in the Saints’ strong second quarter.
“We needed another person to step up and score and Dani (Wagner) did that,” Carroll College head coach Rachelle Sayers said. “I thought our bench did a great job during that stretch. We didn’t have Hannah (Dean), we were starting to get a little tired, but they kept battling.
“Especially on the boards, in the first half the offensive boards really kept us in the game.”
Wagner finished 10-of-19 from the field (4-of-9 behind the arc) and added on nine rebounds in a strong overall performance. Perhaps her best shot of the night came with 45 seconds left and the Saints up by five points. The 5-foot-9 sophomore guard got the ball in the corner and as she was falling out of bounds hit the 3-pointer to seal the game for the Saints.
After falling behind by as much as nine in the fourth quarter, Tech was able to trim it back to three when Tjaden Pallister hit a quick shot with 3:34 to go. But Dean — who finished with 21 points and nine rebounds — hit a shot through contact which was followed by a Wagner jumper to push the lead to seven. Tech would get no closer the five points the rest of the game.
“The thing I love about Dani is that she puts the work in,” Sayers said. “I met her this afternoon to get extra shots up. She comes in every day and continues to work on her game.
“When she has games like this, it doesn’t surprise me.”
Mesa Williams led the way for Montana Tech with 13 points, while Mollie Peoples had 12 on 4-of-16 shooting. The Orediggers didn’t shoot well as a team, hitting just 17-of-60 shots from the field and made just five of their 18 attempts from behind the arc.
Tech was also slightly out-rebounded and many of Carroll’s offensive boards turned into points for the Saints.
“You shoot 28 percent and it’s going to be hard to beat the No. 8 team in the nation,” Montana Tech head coach Carly Sanon said. “Give them credit, they’re good. We came out and were all over them, but in that second quarter we lost our edge and we lost our focus.”
Carroll outscored Tech 21-10 over the final 10 minutes of the first half that ended up being the difference in the game. The margin in the other three quarters combined was a net zero.
Carroll moves to 21-7 (13-4 Frontier) on the yea, while Tech falls to 13-15 with a 3-14 mark in conference play. Both the Orediggers and the Saints finish up the regular season with a home game against Rocky Mountain — Tech will play them on Friday, while Carroll gets them on Saturday.
“Again, we’re young, an eighth-place team, disappointed because there’s a lot of things we’ve worked on and made mistakes here and there,” Sanon said. “It’s the Frontier Conference and it’s good … things don’t get much easier, but we’ll be ready to go tomorrow.”