BUTTE, Mont. -- After two stinging losses to Carroll
College during the regular season, the Lewis-Clark State women's basketball team
finally got the best of the Saints on Monday night.
And it was the ideal moment for a breakthrough -- a loss would have meant the end of the Warriors' season.
Saints forward Emili Woody missed two free throws with six-tenths of a second left, allowing fourth-seeded LCSC to escape with a 72-71 triumph over top-seeded Carroll in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference tournament at the Butte Civic Center.
So after losing to Carroll by two- and three-point margins during the regular season, LCSC finally ended up on the positive end of a nail-biter.
"The old adage is that it's hard to beat a team three times," Warriors coach Brian Orr said. "That's not necessarily true -- unless the teams match up well. ... I think we match up well with Carroll."
LCSC hopes to continue this third-time's-a-charm theme tonight. The Warriors will face second-seeded Montana-Western for the tournament championship at 6 p.m. PST. The Bulldogs have beaten L-C in this game the last two years -- in overtime in 2002 and on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer in '03.
Against Carroll, the Warriors got off to a strong start and eventually built a 56-42 edge. Insiders Kendra West (20 points, 9-for-13 shooting) and Ashley Baker (16 points) helped lead the charge.
But midway through the second half, Carroll found its outside touch. The Saints' 15-0 run gave them a lead with 8:36 left.
This same scenario played out in these teams' first two meetings. But rather than going to a man-to-man defense -- as they had done in those games -- the Warriors stuck with their zone scheme.
"I didn't want to get away from our plan," Orr said. "We just tried to remain patient with the zone."
Down by two with 80 seconds left, L-C got a 3-pointer from the corner by BreAnna Mulvey. After Carroll's Tara Zoanni answered with a paint bucket, Baker pumped in a low-post score with 44 second remaining. That turned out to be the deciding basket.
In the closing seconds, Baker missed the front end of a one-and-one chance. And after getting fouled on an offensive rebound with less than a second remaining, Woody missed both her shots.
"I was just hoping for overtime," Orr said.
Although Carroll, 28-6, had been the class of the conference all season, the Warriors weren't cowed by their opponent.
"I know this: Our players were very, very confident about this game," Orr said. "They were confident all week. I was kind of surprised at their confidence.
"I think our players are up for the (championship) game," he added. "I hate to say this, but they actually mentioned Western before be played this game."
Tonight's contest is a true must-win for L-C. As the nation's 32nd-rated team, the Warriors are too low to draw an at-large berth in the NAIA national tournament. The only way to make their ninth consecutive appearance at nationals will be via the FC's automatic berth.
LEWIS-CLARK STATE (23-9)
Kalbfleisch 4-13 0-0 9, Mulvey 4-8 0-0 9, Foot 4-10 2-4 11, Baker 7-11 2-6 16, West 9-13 1-1 20, Wittmer 0-0 0-0 0, de Groot 1-4 0-1 2, Valle 1-1 0-0 2, Hazlett 1-2 0-0 3. Totals 31-62, 5-12 72.
CARROLL COLLEGE (28-6)
Woody 6-10 2-5 14, Bromiley 3-4 0-1 6, Hart 0-6 0-0 0, Zoanni 4-13 2-4 12, Hall 5-11 1-2 16, High 6-11 0-0 17, Paul 0-0 0-0 0, Priddy 3-6 0-0 6, Smith 0-1 0-0 0. Totals 27-63 5-12 71.
Halftime -- LCSC 37, Carroll 33. 3-point goals -- LCSC 5-15 (Kalbfleisch 1-3, Mulvey 1-4, Foot 1-5, West 1-2, Hazlett 1-1). Carroll 12-32 (Hart 0-5, Zoanni 2-8, Hall 5-11, High 5-7, Priddy 0-1). Rebounds -- LCSC 33 (Baker 9). Carroll 37 (Woody, Bromiley 11). Assists -- LCSC 19 (Kalbfleisch 6). Carroll 17 (Hart, High 4). Total fouls -- LCSC 15, Carroll 12. Fouled out -- Foot. Technical fouls -- none.