HELENA – Carroll College’s P.E. Center went from celebration to stunned in a matter of minutes Saturday evening. Fans in attendance saw the No. 2 Fighting Saints lose a 22-point lead to fall 72-70 against No. 10 Lewis-Clark State College.
It was the first loss of the season for Carroll.
Ryan Imhoff had a game-high 26 points as Carroll opened up a 16-point halftime advantage, 43-27. The Saints led 23-20 with 8:56 remaining in the opening half, then used a 20-7 run to build their lead at the break.
Imhoff had nine of his points in the first half and brought the Carroll crowd to its feet with a 3-point play to open the second half. Match Burnham’s 3-pointer boosted the Saints’ lead to 49-27.
But LCSC dialed up its defense throughout the rest of the half. Trailing 56-38 with 12:30 remaining in the contest, Daniel Mitchell scored nine straight points for the Warriors to get within 60-47. Race Martin hit consecutive 3-point field goals to cut the deficit to six, then nailed a pair of free throws to trim Carroll’s lead to 64-60.
Martin and Thomas kept attacking the Saints’ defense, and Derrick White’s 3-point play with 2:14 to go made the score 70-69, the closest L-C had been since the score was 6-5 with 17:03 to play in the first half.
The Warriors’ defense suffocated Imhoff, Carroll’s all-American, and forced the Saints to miss three straight shots. LCSC took the lead when White drove past the Carroll defense for a layup with 32 seconds to play, giving the Warriors a 71-70 advantage.
Trailing by a point in the final 10 seconds, Carroll coach Carson Cunningham called a timeout and drew up one final play. The Saints executed the call flawlessly, but Alejandro Santos Piqueras left an attempt from the block short, leading to the Warriors’ win.
Carroll (15-1) got 15 points from Match Burnham and six rebounds from Matt Wyman. But Cunningham said he missed an opportunity to change the team’s defense midway through the second half, leading to the run from the Warriors.
The Fighting Saints return to action on Tuesday, hosting Rocky Mountain College. The Battlin’ Bears defeated Lewis-Clark State on Thursday and added a win over No. 16 Montana Western on Saturday evening.