BUTTE — Late in Montana Tech’s 69-66 upset win over No. 7 Carroll College, Adam Hiatt knew he had a decision to make.
Up by three over the Saints with 7.1 seconds on the clock after Nate Ward hit a pair of free throws, the Orediggers could either foul the Carroll player who got the ball on the inbound (which turned out to be Shamrock Campbell) or let them shoot.
Unlike last season’s Jan. 25, 2018 upset over a ranked Saints team in which Hiatt instructed his players to foul after former Oredigger Jake Miles split a pair of free throws at the very end of the game, the head coach decided against forcing Carroll to shoot the freebies.
He called it a ‘feel thing’ then. Whether or not to foul was a feel thing again on Thursday night.
And like the win over Carroll in 2018, his decision worked.
“So, my thought was, if we foul them and have to keep making free throws it’s going to get to the point where they’re going to need one shot to win,” Hiatt said. “So, at this point, I thought, well, if they make a shot it’s overtime, we’re at home, we’re playing pretty well defensively, maybe we can wear them out, they got a thin bench as it is.
“We were willing to roll the dice.”
Tech played the final shot attempt extremely well, as point guard Nate Ward ran down the baseline step-for-step with Campbell. The freshman Carroll forward then flipped the ball to Jovan Sljivancanin, whose shot barely rimmed out.
Carroll was still without star senior Matt Wyman, who went through warmups with the Saints but did not play in the game. First-year head coach Kurt Paulson said the last minute of the game felt like a blur and put the loss on several other factors.
“They made their free throws, they made plays. I thought we had tons of chances,” Paulson said. “Didn’t really come to that, though, we just didn’t play very well tonight. Had tons of looks at the hoop, couldn’t make any shots. They hit and we couldn’t stop them offensively and they had what they wanted.”
Up by eight with 2:35 left in the game following a Derrius Collins’ 3-point shot, Tech looked like they were going to leave the HPER Complex without much in the way of drama.
But Dane Warp — who finished with 18 points — hit a deep triple to pull the Saints back within five. Match Burnham (22 points, nine rebounds) then scored to make it a one-possession game, where it would stay for most of the rest of the game.
The Orediggers, however, hit just enough free throws and shots down the stretch to keep Carroll at bay. Taylor England showed up big for the Orediggers, finishing with 11 points and 12 rebounds. Dylan Pannabecker led Tech with 13 points and Derrius Collins was also in double figures with 10.
The Orediggers move to 16-13 and 6-11 in Frontier Conference play. It’s the first time since the 2012-13 campaign Tech has had six conference wins in a season and the first time since 1999 the Orediggers have had 16 or more total wins.
“We made enough plays down the stretch to hold one,” Hiatt said. “It was a great win all around for our guys, I’m really happy for them.”