HELENA — The Carroll College women’s basketball team is no stranger to conference rival Montana Western.
The two teams already met three times during the regular season.
So what has Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers learned from the three meetings as she prepares for another game, this time in Monday’s Frontier Conference championship?
“I learned that they are really good,” Sayers said with a smile.
While Montana Western starts and ends with preseason All-American point guard Brianna King, she has proven to be not their only commodity.
A support cast featuring senior Britt Cooper and Cierra Lamey has carried the Bulldogs, and has them in good position to grab a No. 1 seed heading into the NAIA National Tournament.
“They are not going to hurt themselves, they run good stuff and they are a good defensive team,” Sayers said. “Not to mention they are probably the best passing team in the country. They just distribute the ball and if you make a defensive mistake, they are going to find it.”
Playing quality defense is nothing new for Carroll this season. The Saints finished the regular season second only to Western, giving up 52.1 points per game.
More recently over the last nine games, that number dropped to just 49 points per contest.
But how do you stop the conference’s leading scorer?
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“I know I need to play the best defense I can,” Carroll sophomore point guard Jaidyn Lyman said. “Not only can (King) shoot it, but she can drive. You have to balance when to come out on her. She can make that switch at any time.”
As for the two posts, Lamey and Cooper, Sayers said they need to keep them out of the paint.
“After that, it really comes down to being able to score,” Sayers said.
While Saints forward Hannah Dean has been leading the scoring charge, averaging 15.1 points per game, other role players have taken turns complementing their captain.
Last Tuesday in the semifinals against Rocky Mountain it was Danielle Wagner scoring 18 points, and prior to that against Montana Tech it was Christine Denny putting up 14 points.
Denny also finished with 16 points in Carroll’s 55-50 win over Montana Western in Dillon back on Feb. 7.
It was a win that the Saints are using as momentum heading into the championship.
“It would have been tough going back there, knowing we haven’t won there,” Sayers said. “They lost three games all year and two have been on their home court.”
Both losses have come this past month.