DILLON – The Straugh Gymnasium rocked all night long as the Carroll College Fighting Saints and Montana Western Bulldogs met for the Frontier Conference women’s basketball tournament title on Monday.
In the end, Carroll silenced the Western faithful a hard-fought 54-50 win.
Carroll jumped out early in the first quarter, knocking down what seemed like every shot it put up. Hannah Dean controlled the paint and Danielle Wagner had the Saints covered from deep. Dean finished with a team-high 18 points, eight rebounds, and Wagner had 11 points and seven boards.
Montana Western went down 16-14 at the end of one thanks to a buzzer beater by Bri King to make it a two-point game. In the second quarter, the Bulldogs pushed the tempo and got out in transition for easy buckets. King led all scorers with 22 points, shooting 5 of 10 from 3-point land. Montana Western outscored Carroll 15-8 in the second to go into halftime with a 29-24 lead.
In the beginning of the third quarter, Western slowed it down a bit and found Britt Cooper down low for some easy baskets in the paint. Cooper dropped eight points in Monday’s contest, but that’s when Carroll coach Rachelle Sayers and her squad made some crucial adjustments in the media timeout that would change the outcome of the game.
“I thought we got a little panicked with Western’s pressure,” Sayers said. “I thought the kids did a really good job locking in on King — she was hitting 3s, and we were going to stay out on her.”
Carroll effectively limited King in the fourth quarter. Dean, Wagner and Brittney Johnson hit big shots late in the game that put the Saints up 51-44 with less than two minutes to play in regulation. Johnson finished with 16 points, shooting 4 of 6 from 3-point range. The Bulldogs cut the deficit to three with less than 30 seconds to play, but a clutch free throw from Dean with less than five seconds to play made it a two-possession game and ultimately sealed the 54-50 win.
The Fighting Saints take home the Frontier Conference tournament title and will prepare for the NAIA national tournament next week in Billings. Montana Western will await the selection process to see if it will hold onto its projected No. 1 seed for the tournament.