BUTTE — While the City Championship will be going on in the Butte Civic Center, another rivalry will be renewed on Kelvin Sampson Court when Montana Tech and Carroll square off in a basketball doubleheader.
It will be a massive challenge for both Oredigger squads — the Saints men’s team is ranked No. 2 in the country while the women come in at No. 24 in the NAIA poll.
“We’re excited to play them,” Tech men’s head coach Adam Hiatt said. “I’m not sure if our players realize quite yet it’s a rivalry just because of how young they are. It will be a challenge and Carroll is one of, if not the best team in our conference.
“They’re well coached, battled tested and don’t make a lot of mistakes.”
The Carroll men are led by senior forward Ryan Imhoff, who leads the team in average points (21.2), rebounds (6.5), assists (4.3), steals (2.9) and blocks (1.2). Listed at 6-foot-6, he’ll be a massive problem for the ‘Diggers relatively small lineup.
In fact, three of the Saints’ starters are 6-foot-6 or taller.
“They have great size and there’s going to be several instances where they’ll have four guys on the floor between 6-4 and 6-8,” Hiatt said. “They have a lot of versatility, and they play a little unconventional at times, but they’re good at creating matchups that benefit them.”
Tech, meanwhile, plays a different style basketball and the matchup will pit the ‘Diggers potent perimeter scoring against the Saints outstanding post play. Carroll isn’t afraid to launch from behind the arc, but they’ve shot the fewest three-pointers in the Frontier Conference this season. They are, however, making them at a 41.6 percent clip.
Carroll has lost two-straight coming into the game, while Tech fell in its last game to MSU-Northern on Jan. 4. The ‘Diggers have started off conference play 0-3 and are the lone team without a Frontier Conference win.
“We have a young team and as coaches, we get a little nervous about how our team will respond to adjustments week-to-week,” Hiatt said. “Our focus every single week is to get better, get the young guys experience, and working on finishing out games.
“We’ve had opportunities to do that this year, but we haven’t had the fortune to do so.”
The Oredigger women, meanwhile, have started off the New Year 1-1, with a win over MSU-Northern and a loss to Providence. They’re 11-5 on the season with a 1-3 mark in the Frontier Conference.
Tech will be facing one of the best defenses in the entire NAIA, as Carroll is allowing just 54.2 points per game, which ranks No. 7 in the country.
It’ll be a good matchup with a ‘Diggers offense that is putting up 76.6 points per game, a mark that ranks No. 19 in the NAIA. Tech spreads out the scoring and has just two players averaging double figures this year – Shay Potter (11.9) and Kourtney Coverdell (11.6).
Carroll normally goes as 6-foot-1 center Hannah Dean does. She’s averaging 12.8 points and 8.6 rebounds while also leading the Saints in assists, blocks and steals.
The Saints are on a five-game win streak and are 12-4 overall, with a 4-1 mark in conference play.
"I know they're sitting at home waiting for us. Some of these midweek games are advantage to some and disadvantage to others. This happens to be our week,” Saints head coach Rachelle Sayers told 406mtsports.com. “We're going to watch film and get a head start. They play hard. They play really fast. They're a team that's going to try to cause a lot of chaos offensive and defensively.”