HELENA — Sienna Swannack felt at home Thursday afternoon.
Not because it was the beginning of her second season with Carroll College.
Or because she was in the friendly confines of the PE Center.
She felt at home because she could simply play her favorite style of basketball.
“I love to play fast,” said Swannack, who finished with a career-high 14 points. “The rotation, especially with three point guards, makes it so easy and makes it so much fun.”
And Carroll did exactly that.
Swannack and the Saints sped up the offense and the end result was a 79-54 win over the College of Idaho.
“Playing fast like this gets us fired up and brings a lot more energy to the court,” Swannack said. “We can build off of that and, before you know it, there are more points on the board.”
It took a few minutes for Carroll to get going. A power outage just before tipoff didn’t help either.
But after the lights came back on, it didn’t take long for Carroll’s offense to get up to speed.
Swannack’s 3-pointer from the top of the key along with layup inside by senior center Emerald Toth put the Saints ahead 19-16 at the end of the first quarter.
The offense sped up even more in the second quarter as Swannack drove inside with the layup followed by her second 3-pointer.
Another quick score by Toth forced C of I coach Janis Beal to take a timeout.
Sayers made it a point of emphasis to push the tempo just three days after a season-opening lost to Calgary.
She said the biggest mistake in that game was playing too conservatively.
“We wanted to make sure to have ball security and control the tempo. That was on me,” Sayers said. “I think I sold our kids short a little bit and that’s not the way we have been practicing.”
A 19-point first quarter and a 22-point second quarter was the perfect remedy.
Alongside Swannack was junior Jaidyn Lyman and sophomore Kamden Hilborn. The three point guards are players that can not only run the offense and more importantly push the tempo.
“We are going to have to take some lumps and might have more turnovers than we typically have but I think in the end we are going to get more production out of them,” Sayers said.
By midway through the third quarter, Swannack took a back seat as Christine Denny chipped in six points while Hilborn scored in the paint.
A 3-pointer in the corner by Jaidyn Lyman put the Saints ahead 57-42.
The Saints bench came in during the fourth quarter and the offense kept moving forward.
Redshirt freshman forward Maddie Geritz scored six points in that quarter, while true freshmen Erica Nissan and Genesis Wilkinson scored their first college baskets.
“Every win always feels good, but we are a long way from being the seventh-ranked team in the country,” Sayers said. “It’s a long season.”
Carroll’s next game is Tuesday, when it heads off for its annual trip to Missoula to play an exhibition game against Montana.
For the Saints, Sayers said it’s an opportunity to get better.
“I’m going to turn these guys loose and we are going to play aggressively,” Sayers said. “We just hope each game we can improve in every area and put ourselves in a position to be where we want when we get to conference.”