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GETTING DEFENSIVE

Carroll College women hold off Northern in a Frontier Conference slugfest

 

Last updated 1/5/2021 at 7:30am

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's McKenzie Gunter, right, tries to get past a Carroll College defender during Monday night's game in the Armory Gymnasium.

There's no denying that the Carroll College Fighting Saints are one of the premier teams in NAIA women's basketball right now. And that's what made the Montana State University-Northern's defensive performance Monday night so impressive.

But, as good as the Skylights were in their Frontier Conference opener, the No. 6 Saints found a way to get out of the Armory Gymnasium with a 53-48 win in the first of back-to-back nights between the bitter rivals.

And while Carroll improved to 3-0 in league play, and the Saints jumped in front 14-3, the game was very much up for grabs in the final minutes, as the Skylights' defense, which held Carroll to more than 20 points below its season average, kept Northern in it to the end. The Skylights also held the Saints to just 31 percent shooting and a 1-of-9 performance from beyond the arc.

"As far as the defensive effort, we played as well as we could have," Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. "They (Saints) are very talented, very good offensively, and I thought we did a good job of handling a lot of that. So from that standpoint, I was really proud of our kids, it was a gutsy effort defensively."

It was a great defensive showing, but it wasn't enough.

Northern clawed back from a 14-3 deficit in the first quarter with consecutive triples from McKenzie Gunter, the first of which ended a seven-minute scoring drought. In the second stanza, the Skylights then held Carroll scoreless for more than five minutes, while Tiara Gilham and Gunter capped a 7-0 run that helped Northern pull even at 23-23 going into halftime.

Northern would ultimately inch in front in a Gilham jumper to open the second half, but Carroll rattled off a 9-0 run and started to dominate inside behind Maddie Geritz and Jamie Pickens. The run helped Carroll go up by as many as 10 points in the fourth quarter, but the Skylights didn't fold.

Instead, Northern again tightened the defensive reins, and when Gunter connected on her third trey of the night, the Skylights were down just 47-44 with 1:10 left. From there, MSU-N had to play the foul game, and while they pushed the Saints to the brink, former Havre Blue Pony Dani Wagner's two free throws with :11 left sealed the win for the Saints.

"Bottom line, we put them on the line too much," Mouat said. "We fouled too much, especially when we got back in the game. They also got us on the boards. They're a great offensive rebounding team, and that was a big difference. And at the end of the day, we didn't make enough shots either. I thought we executed really well, but we missed way too many of those shots.

"So we have a lot to clean up," he added. "We've got to learn from this game and get ready to again. Carroll is really good, and I thought our effort against them was tremendous. Our kids played really hard, and played great defensively. I'm proud of them for that. But we're not here for morale victories. We want to win these games."

The Skylights (0-1, 1-4) did show plenty of heart, even though they were outsized by the Saints. Sydney Hovde finished with 14 points and six rebounds, while Gilham, in her first game back from injury, had 13 and Gunter scored 11. But, just as the Skylights were really good defensively, so was Carroll. The Saints held Northern to just 31 percent shooting, and also forced the Skylights into 15 turnovers, while also winning on the boards 34-24.

It will be a quick turnaround under the new-old Frontier schedule as the Skylights and Saints meet again tonight at 5 in the Armory.

Skylights are 0-1 in Frontier; Next Up: vs Carroll tonight at 5 p.m.

Carroll 53, Skylights 48

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern's Cameron Mooney shoots during Monday night's game against Carroll in the Armory Gymnasium.

Carroll College 14 9 18 12 - 53

MSU-Northern 9 14 10 15 - 48

CC - Jamie Pickens 3-13 2-2 10, Danielle Wagner 0-5 4-4 4, Christine Denny 2-8 5-6 9, Kamden Hillborn 1-4 0-2 2, Sienna Swannack 5-10 1-2 12, Jaidyn Lyman 0-2 2-2 2, Emma Madsen 1-1 0-0 2, Molly McDermott 2-3 0-0 4, Maddie Geritz 2-4 6-8 10. Totals: 16-51 20-28.

MSU-N - Sydney Hovde 5-8 4-5 14, Tiara Gilham 5-15 2-2 13, Allix Goldhahn 1-3 2-2 4, McKenzie Gunter 4-11 0-0 11, Peyton Kehr 1-6 0-0 3, L'Tia Lawrence 0-1 0-0 0, Ryley Kehr 1-1 1-2 3, Morgan Mason 0-2 0-0 0, Cameron Mooney 0-1 0-0 0. Totals: 17-48 9-11.

3-pointers: CC 1-9 (Swannack 1), MSU-N 5-15 (Gilham 1, Gunter 3, P. Kehr 1). Rebounds: CC 34 (Pickens 7), MSU-N 24 (Hovde 6), Fouls: CC 13, CC 19. Fouled out: None.

 
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