BUTTE — Carroll College’s Michaela Dowdy and Hannah Dean make up one of the toughest frontcourt tandems in Frontier Conference women’s basketball.
A number of Montana Tech bigs drew the Dean assignment Thursday night at HPER complex, but it was Orediggers’ sophomore Shay Potter who drew Dowdy on both ends of the floor in what’s among the most physical matchups either player will see in conference play.
Ultimately, the ‘Diggers early turnovers led to offensive struggles as the Saints ran away with a 65-49 win, their second win at Tech in the last two weeks. But while the ‘Diggers played catch up for four quarters, Potter and Dowdy battled under the rim.
Potter paced the ‘Diggers with 14 points and nine boards, while Dowdy led the No. 10 Saints with a game-high 16 points and five rebounds.
“Shay did a good job (with Dowdy),” ‘Diggers head coach Carly Sanon said after the game. “She missed some bunnies that she wouldn’t normally. She’s leading the nation in field goal percentage, and for her to miss three or four easy (inside shots), that isn’t her normal self.”
Dowdy, for her part, helped squash any hope the ‘Diggers had at a fourth quarter rally. With Carroll leading 41-30 after three, the Saints senior out of Capital High School scored quick back-to-back buckets off consecutive turnovers. The ‘Diggers made a run with under three minutes to play, but the damage was already done.
“Coach (Rachelle Sayers) had us knowing we were going to be battling in the post tonight,” Dowdy said. "Shay is a really good, strong player … We like to shove each other around in the post, so that was a good matchup for us.”
Frontcourt mate Hannah Dean, who leads Carroll in all major statistical categories, finished with 14 points and six rebounds.
Sanon said there’s no doubt about it — Dean and Dowdy are the toughest pairing up front in the conference.
“They are the two toughest post players I’d say in the league,” she said. “I thought we did a really good job. We sagged off them a little bit, we wanted them to try to drive on us. What really hurt us with them was their second chance shots. We did a good job defending, and then they would get an offensive rebound."
The Orediggers (13-8, 3-6) were forced to play from behind throughout the game after coughing up six turnovers and scoring just six points through the first quarter. That, coupled with six Saints players scoring through one, put Sanon’s side into a hole she says you can’t afford to get into playing in the Frontier.
“The Frontier Conference is a brutal league,” she said. “Not many conferences have four ranked (nationally) and others receiving votes. We have to bring it for 40 minutes every game, and we didn’t do that in the first half.
“We’re shooting a good percentage from the field if we can get more shots … if we only turn it over two times, that gives us more time to shoot, and we just couldn’t get anything going. That’s a tough way to start a home game when you’re coming off the road.”
The Orediggers are coming off a 1-1 road stint in which they put up 90 points in a win over No. 18 Providence. Guard Hannah Sparks, who scored a career-high 16 points in that win, was held scoreless in Thursday’s loss.
The Saints (15-5, 7-2) went 1-1 last week, falling to unranked Montana Western before bouncing back to beat No. 23 Lewis-Clark State College.
The ‘Diggers play their second of a four-game homestand tonight against Rocky Mountain College at 5:30 p.m. The Saints begin a four-game homestand of their own on Saturday, hosting that Rocky Mountain College team at 5:30 p.m.