Carroll College Sports Information Press Release
HELENA – The sixth-ranked Carroll College Fighting Saints earned the regular-season conference title by leaning on its starters. Monday night in the conference title game, the bench players made all of the difference.
Dane Warp scored a game-high 20 points, and Alejandro Santos Piqueras added eight points, 10 assists and 12 rebounds to lead Carroll College to a 79-65 win over No. 11 Montana Western in the Frontier Conference Championship Game at the PE Center.
Oliver Carr added six points off of the bench, but his scoring total doesn’t reflect the critical first-half minutes he played when starting forward Ryan Imhoff sat with two fouls.
The Saints were 33-52 (63.5 percent) from the field and 8-13 (61.5 percent) from the three-point line. Carroll pulled away early and never let the Bulldogs gain any momentum as they cruised to the 14-point win.
“I am super impressed by our Fighting Saints — what a fantastic group of dynamic, supportive and ultra-competitive young men,” head coach Carson Cunningham said. “They are so resilient and so much fun to watch hoop. I’ve got to give Montana Western credit. They’re tough to deal with. Fortunately, the fellas found ways to get it done. I’m very happy for them. A big thank you to the coaching staff, too. I appreciate their hard work. And to our fans, what great supporters — thank you. We’re grateful we get to represent such a wonderful place, Carroll College.”
The Saints (27-5, 13-5 FC) jumped out to a 19-5 lead before the Bulldogs (25-7, 13-5 FC) rallied and cut the lead to 30-24 with 6:16 to play in the half, but Carroll rattled off six-straight points and closed the half with a 43-28 lead.
Montana Western cut the lead to 46-38 with 15:40 to play, but Carroll hit back-to-back buckets to extend the lead back to double-digits. The edge wouldn’t drop back into single digits the rest of the way.
Carroll extended the lead to 77-60 with 2:08 to play, Western cut the lead to 77-63 before Warp, and Piqueras ended the scoring for the Saints in a microcosm of the game. A nifty pass from Piqueras for an easy layup with 56 seconds left to give Carroll a 77-64 lead.
Western added a pair of free throws in the final seconds, but it was the Saints that cut down the nets, for the second time in as many seasons, after the 14-point win.
Carroll’s senior captain Imhoff scored 12 points, and Ife Kalejaiye added 10. Warp’s efficiency was unbelievable in his 20-point performance. He was 9-10 from the field, his only miss coming from the three-point line. The Saints were 19-26 (73.1 percent) from the field in the first.
Montana Western was 21-51 (41.2 percent) from the field and 3-13 (23.1 percent) from the three-point line. Zaccheus Darko-Kelly led the way for the Bulldogs with 16 points. Dom Robinson added 14, and Brandon Jones added 13.
The win is the Saints’ third over Montana Western in four tries this season.
Carroll now awaits their fate for the NAIA DI National Championship in Kansas City. The Saints received a one-seed a season ago with the same record. Montana Western and Lewis-Clark State are also virtual locks for at-large bids into the tournament.
Carroll will find out Wednesday at 5 p.m. MST at the PE Center meeting and event space. Fans are welcome to join the Saints as they find out their first-round opponent.