DILLON — For the last few years, Montana Western women’s basketball has been fueled by point guard Brianna King.
But on Saturday night, the role-players didn’t mind taking the lead.
In what could be a preview of a future Frontier Conference championship, Carroll held King to just 12 points, but the Bulldogs still came away with a 58-54 win at Straugh Gymnasium.
The outcome puts both teams atop the conference standings at 4-1.
“I thought we battled,” Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers said. “You do everything you can to compete night in and night out, but tonight we fell short.”
Montana Western did not waste any time taking control of the contest with a jump shot by Britt Cooper followed by a score from Paige Holmes.
After a 3-pointer in the corner by Sannon Worster the Bulldogs held a commanding 17-8 lead.
King was limited to just one shot, miss from the top of the key.
“We didn’t want to focus everything on her because she is also such a good passer,” Sayers said of King, who also finished with five assists and five rebounds. “There are good shooters surrounding her and we got caught a couple times.”
Carroll spent a good portion of the first quarter without senior forward Hannah Dean after she was hit in the mouth that jarred a tooth loose.
Montana Western pushed its lead up to as many as 11 points with halftime approaching, but Dean came back, swollen lip and all, to get her team back in it.
She made consecutive buckets in the paint followed by a layup by Taylor Salonen and the deficit was cut to a single possession.
The Saints had a chance to tie the score on the final possession of the half but Cooper stole the in-bounds pass and put her team ahead 30-26 during the intermission.
“I thought Jaidyn Lyman did a really good job on Brianna bothering her a little bit,” Western coach Linsday Woolley said. “You are waiting for the bench to have a big game and you just go down the roster and they had a great game.”
Both teams remained close in the second half and King finally found the spotlight.
She hit a layup in the paint after she was fouled and hit another shot in the paint and the Bulldogs extended their lead up to eight points.
But despite her best efforts, and drilling a step-back 3-pointer with a hand in her face, the Saints hung around.
Carroll cut its deficit down to two points, but could not tie or take the lead after consecutive empty trips down the floor.
It was frustrating because we couldn’t score and we had a couple of shots just rattle on the rim,” said Dean, who finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds. “If we were playing at home, they probably would have gone in.
The two teams don’t play each other again for two weeks and both coaches know this isn’t the end of the conference rivalry.
“The energy is different and give Rachelle for that,” Woolley said. “I joked with her, ‘oh wow we have to do this two more times?’ ”
Carroll returns home on Tuesday to host Montana Tech, while the Bulldogs stay at the comfort of home when they host Montana State-Northern on Thursday.