(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – Montana answered its slow start with an 18-0 run that spanned the first and second quarters, and the Lady Griz were in control the rest of the way in their 71-56 exhibition victory over Carroll on Tuesday night at Dahlberg Arena in Missoula.
Jace Henderson recorded a 12-point, 13-rebound double-double, McKenzie Johnston scored a team-high 14 points, and Montana’s starters shot better than 53 percent, all of which allowed third-year coach Shannon Schweyen to go deeper into her bench than expected against NAIA’s No. 7-ranked team.
“It was really nice to get everyone in there for a stretch. I wasn’t planning on that, but we got away from them a little bit,” said Schweyen, whose team led 47-29 at the half after shooting 52.8 percent.
“There were some real positive things by all of them when they got in. Everybody who came in helped maintain that lead.”
Carroll wasn’t going to be the usual exhibition opponent, not coming off a 25-win season, which included an exhibition road victory at Boise State, and loaded with experience.
And the Saints looked the part early on, getting consecutive 3-pointers from Hannah Dean, Brittney Johnson and Sienna Swannack to turn an early 4-2 deficit into an 11-4 lead.
That and Montana’s six turnovers in the opening six minutes of the game had everyone wondering if this was finally the season that the Saints would have their breakthrough win in Missoula.
The Lady Griz answered that immediately: Not this year.
Montana held Carroll scoreless for nearly five minutes and made eight of 10 on their end of the floor to build a lead it would never give up.
While the surge was fueled by hot shooting, it reached its peak by a hustling Gabi Harrington, who came off the bench late in the first quarter and immediately made a passing-lane steal on the wing that she took the other way, converting a pair of free throws after shaking off a hard foul.
And if that wasn’t enough to energize the crowd, she drained a 3-pointer right before quarter’s end to make it 20-11.
“She was a big spark tonight. She comes in and gets that big steal and did a lot of good things,” Schweyen said. “She’s very explosive and has good quickness and length. And she’s working hard on defense.
“Probably the most important thing she did was rip some rebounds. That’s a tribute to her for the hard work in the weight room this summer. It’s great to see something so positive out of her.”
Montana took 23 shots in the second quarter alone, connecting at a 52-percent clip, to steadily build their lead to the 18-point halftime advantage.
And when Montana did miss, it felt like Henderson was there to collect the rebound and lay it back in. She had eight points and six rebounds at the half, four of which came on the offensive end.
“It’s so nice to have those offensive buckets,” said Schweyen. “She works hard to go get them, then she’s able to convert and make them, and it’s such a big difference.”
Harrington had 10 points and five rebounds off the bench, and though the other six reserves who got minutes combined for just nine points, they had a presence about them.
Emma Stockholm had 16 active minutes that resulted in eight good looks, Jordyn Schweyen knocked down a three shortly after entering the game, and Kylie Frohlich and Carmen Gfeller both grabbed four rebounds.
“It was fun to see some of our other kids beyond our starters. We could have lots of different lineups this year. It was fun to see those kids come in and all do something positive,” said Schweyen. “It was encouraging.”
Montana shot 53.8 percent in the first half, and it felt like the Lady Griz might just keep it up and try to put up 100, but the pace slowed and the shooting cooled off.
Katie Mayhue, who got the start and finished with nine points, put Montana up by 25, 56-31, early in the third quarter with a three. Madi Schoening made it 58-33, minutes later with a hard and-one drive to the basket.
From there, both teams shot in the low-30-percent range as the game slowed down, which played right into the hands of Carroll and senior star Cassidy Kosena, who got to work in the paint.
After scoring just two points in the first half, Kosena scored 10 in the second half on 4-of-6 shooting, mostly with deft post moves.
While Montana’s lead, which was 63-42 after three quarters, was never threatened, Carroll three times cut their deficit to 15 points in the fourth quarter.
“She got it going a little bit, and once she does, she’s tough to stop,” said Schweyen. “We didn’t want her touching it down there easily. She protects the ball well and has beautiful hooks.
“We talked about fronting her, and we stood behind her a few too many times. She’s a nice player. And Carroll has a great basketball team. I’m excited to see what kind of year they have.”
Taylor Goligoski added nine points on 4-of-8 shooting, and Schoening added eight on four shots as Montana finished with a 43.9-percent shooting percentage and 52-36 rebounding advantage. Eighteen of those boards came on the offensive end, six from Henderson.
It was Montana’s lone preseason exhibition game before renewing its regional rivalry with Gonzaga next week in Spokane. The Bulldogs won 70-55 last season in Missoula and were picked to win the West Coast Conference this winter.