It will be a very difficult thing for the Lewis-Clark State women to return to the euphoria they reached moments after halftime Saturday night. They can get back there. It's just going to take a month of rugged toil.
With a marvelous first-half performance by freshman post Ashley Baker, the Warriors jumped to a 17-point lead over Carroll College. But the Frontier Conference frontrunner banged home six 3-pointers in the final 13 minutes and registered a stunning 72-69 victory at Warrior Gym.
The 18th-ranked Saints improved to 24-4 overall and 9-1 in conference. L-C dipped to 19-8 and 7-4 -- and missed out on a delicious opportunity.
"In the scheme of things, this was a huge, huge game," Warriors coach Brian Orr said. "We win this and ... who knows? It could have been a trip to the national tournament guaranteed. I don't know."
Baker finished with a career-best 29 points. In the first half, with the Saints' smallish insiders playing in front of her, the 6-foot-3 Baker turned over-the-defense lobs into 19 points.
Carroll's chief halftime adjustment was to play behind Baker in the post. "That's a big change," Orr said.
LCSC's most glorious moment came with 15:08 remaining, when Baker converted a putback to make it 48-31. The Warriors had the FC's top dog in what looked like a no-win situation.
But over the next eight minutes, the Saints reeled off a 21-3 charge. The spree included four 3-pointers, and was climaxed by a conventional three-point play by Andrea Hall, making it 52-all.
With Carroll up by a point in the closing seconds, the Saints' Tara Zoanni missed a 3-pointer. But Hall snatched the offensive rebound, was fouled and made both free throws to bump the margin to three.
Needing a long shot to tie, the Warriors burned up most of the final 19 seconds swinging the ball around the perimeter. Finally, with about three seconds left, Jessica Foot loaded an attempt from the left elbow. But Carroll guard Lacey High blocked the shot, and time melted away.
Foot, Cami Kalbfleisch, BreAnna Mulvey and Kendra West all touched the ball during that final sequence.
"I thought all of them kind of had looks," Orr said. "That's a tough shot to take. It's a courage shot.
"We talked about that right before that," he added. "The timeout before that, we talked about, 'Hey, be ready to step up and take the big shot.' And it's disappointing that we didn't even get a shot off."
The Saints finished with 22 turnovers -- 15 of which came in the first half.
"We were just coming down the floor and not getting any shots," Carroll coach Shawn Nelson said. "We had a lot of empty possessions. We talked at halftime -- 'If we just quit turning the ball over, we're going to get looks.' "
L-C will have just one game next week, a home contest with Westminster. The Warriors, looking for their ninth straight trip to the NAIA national tournament, would be greatly helped by wins in their final three regular-season games.
NOTES -- This was L-C's second gut-wrenching loss to the Saints. In their January meeting at Helena, Mont., Carroll won on Woody's buzzer-beating basket. ... The Saints completed a rare sweep this week, beating Westminster in Salt Lake City and the Warriors in Lewiston. "I don't know how often that's been done," Nelson said, "but it hasn't happened that often." ... Clarkston native Ellen Smith, a reserve guard for Carroll, went scoreless with one rebound in three minutes of play.
CARROLL (24-4, 9-1)
Woody 6-7 4-4 17, Tomco 3-5 0-0 6, Hart 1-2 2-2 4, Zoanni 6-16 4-5 18, Hall 4-9 3-3 14, High 3-8 0-0 7, Paul 1-1 0-0 2, Priddy 0-0 0-0 0, Smith 0-0 0-0 0, Bromiley 0-2 1-4 1, Segadelli 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 25-52 14-18 72.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (19-8, 7-4)
Kalbfleisch 0-5 1-2 1, Mulvey 1-5 9-12 11, Foot 1-6 2-2 5, Baker 13-19 3-3 29, West 4-7 0-0 9, Wittmer 0-2 0-0 0, de Groot 4-6 1-2 9, Valle 2-6 0-0 5, McCauley 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 25-57 16-21 69.
Halftime score -- LCSC 39, Carroll 27. Three-point goals -- Carroll 8-23 (Woody 1-1, Hart 0-1, Zoanni 2-8, Hall 3-7, High 1-4, Segadelli 1-2); LCSC 3-12 (Kalbfleisch 0-2, Mulvey 0-2, Foot 1-4, West 1-3, Valle 1-1). Rebounds -- Carroll 33 (Zoanni 12); LCSC 29 (Foot 7). Assists -- Carroll 10 (Zoanni 3); LCSC 18 (Kalbfleisch 6). Total fouls -- Carroll 22, LCSC 21. Fouled out -- none. Technical fouls -- none.