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Carroll College men, women looking to finish strong at Frontier Conference basketball tournaments

Erica Nessan Carroll College Fighting Saints
Posted at 6:27 PM, Feb 28, 2024

HELENA — March Madness is quickly approaching and the No. 6-ranked Carroll College women, as well as the Carroll men's team, have officially locked up top-two seeds in this year's Frontier Conference basketball tournaments after an up and down regular season.

“It’s been a process. (In) mid-December we were 4-7, and we’ve really found our stride. The biggest reason is, I think guys have settled into their roles and they really believe in each other," mentioned first-year men's head coach Ryan Lundgren.

Lundgren and his team will head to Great Falls early on Thursday to catch the first-round games, as they easily secured the No. 2 seed behind Montana Tech)in Lundgren's first year at the helm.

"We have played tight games really well. Our defense and our rebounding has really kept us in a lot of games," Lundgren said. "It’s one day at a time in this conference. ... Anybody can beat anybody, and I think our guys’ mentality has been really good, their approach to these games has been what it needs to be."

Lundgren will have the reigning conference player of week, Andrew Cook, on his side heading into the tournament weekend, along with guys like James Lang, Gui Pedra and Moore squared — Kendall and Isaiah.

“There’s definitely been a lot of ups and downs throughout the season," Lang said. "We took a couple losses at the beginning of the season, I got hurt, rolled my ankle, I was out a couple games. ... But we had players step up — Trent Rogers, Josiah Cuaresma, they stepped up and played their role well, so I was able to come back and we’ve been able to stay strong. ... Definitely ups and downs, but we’re peaking right now, which is the best part."

Montana Tech enters the men's bracket with a 24-4 overall record, including a 14-1 mark during the regular season of Frontier play. Tech and second-seeded Carroll College (18-10 overall, 12-3 Frontier) each received first-round byes at the tournament and will play semifinal games on Friday afternoon at the Four Seasons Arena in Great Falls.

On the women's side, Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers has accrued an overall record of 164-50 over the prior seven seasons while racking up multiple Frontier Conference championships as well as five of the last seven regular-season championships.

“Obviously, being able to host those first rounds (of the NAIA national tournament) would be huge," Sayers said. "I mean, we want to finish this tournament strong and put ourselves in the best position to be able to earn one of those host sites. Being able to play in front of our home fans in amazing, it’s great for our community, great for our players, but also it's a lot easier when you’re playing at home. Then hopefully we are moving on to Sioux City."

Carroll is the top seed in the women's bracket after finishing the regular season at 23-4 overall and going 14-1 in conference play.

"I think this group has some big goals in mind. I mean, we want to get out of that round of 16, it’s kind of been our Achilles heel the last few years. We have had some great seasons, but we just haven’t gotten over that hump and that’s something that this team would really like to do," Sayers added.

The Fighting Saints women are the No. 1 seed, while the University of Providence Argos (20-8 overall, 11-4 Frontier) hold the second seed. Both Carroll and Providence will have first-round byes and will play semifinal games Friday after the men's games.