Rocky Mountain College hit some big shots and made some big stops on Thursday night in coming up with a much-needed men’s basketball victory over visiting Carroll College.
The Battlin’ Bears, looking to ease the disappointment of last week’s rough 0-2 road trip, used a dramatic 21-5 scoring spurt early in the second half to come away with an 80-69 bounce-back win over the Saints at the Fortin Center.
Rocky, now 4-2 in the Frontier Conference and 13-5 overall, was locked in a tussle with Carroll, 0-6 and 5-13, until it went on quite a tear during a six-minute stretch — highlighted by 3-pointers, dunks, steals, offensive rebounds and blocks — that turned a 40-39 deficit into a 60-45 lead.
“I think that run was completely sparked by people just bringing the energy and bringing the intensity,” senior forward Joel Barndt said. “The bench was getting into it, the crowd was getting into it. We need to play with that kind of enthusiasm for the rest of the season.”
Guard Tyree Anderson, who tallied nine points during that game-breaking charge, finished with a team-high 21 points for Rocky. Center Jeremy Nicolas chipped in with 17 — on 7 of 7 shooting from the field — and Barndt ended up with 10 points and nine rebounds.
During the first half of the doubleheader, Carroll put together a 22-0 run in the first half and knocked down 11 3-pointers on the night in defeating Rocky 67-42 in the women’s game.
The Saints, 2-4 and 9-8, were led by Bailey Snelling’s 19 points — including four 3-pointers.
Rocky’s men and women will be at home on Saturday night to face Dickinson State University.
The women’s game is set for 5:30, followed by the men at 7:30.
Rocky men 80, Carroll 69
The Bears moved in front for keeps, 42-40, on a 3-pointer from the side by guard Matt Strickland with 16:24 to play.
That shot ignited the 21-5 uprising that ended with Rocky holding a 60-45 advantage with 10:54 remaining.
During the scoring spree, Strickland accounted for all eight of his points — including two 3-pointers — while Anderson came up with a steal and a thunderous one-handed dunk, along with a clutch 3-pointer.
There were also two steals by Strickland and a resounding block and pivotal offensive rebound and putback by Ben Moerkerke to help highlight the scoring onslaught, which was definitely fueled by the Bears’ inspired play on defense.
“We just had a lot of different hustle plays during that period,” Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen said. “We had some good decisions offensively, too. In transition, we got some good, easy looks.”
Carroll, however, wouldn’t go away.
Led by Chris McGrath, who finished with 29 points, and Dennis Mikelonis, who contributed 21, the Saints connected on four consecutive 3-pointers — three by McGrath — to get within 74-69 with 1:07 to go.
Rocky’s Anderson, fouled on the drive, hit two key free throws with 39.7 seconds left to make it 76-69. Teammate Rob Nyby tacked on a layup and two free throws in the closing seconds.
Rocky lost its starting point guard, Sian Lane, to an ankle injury in the opening minutes. The Bears were also playing their third consecutive game without a pair of players who were suspended last week after a fight broke out between them on campus.
“I thought we held it together,” Dreikosen said. “There were moments tonight when a lot of different people had to step up. I thought our bench (with 21 points) had a very good night ...
“That’s what a team is all about. Those kids have been waiting for opportunities. They took advantage of the opportunities they got tonight.”
Carroll women 67, Rocky 42
The Saints’ 22-0 run midway through the first half put them ahead 30-13.
Rocky, now 0-6 and 7-8, led 13-8 on a three-point play by guard Brittany Kumm at the 14:13 mark. The Bears didn’t score for the next 11:08 — shooting 0 for 9 from the field before Peyton Spencer’s 3-pointer — as Carroll moved in front for keeps.
The Saints, who rank as one of the top defensive teams in the NAIA and turned in a solid all-around game, also heated up from the perimeter in taking a 32-20 lead at halftime.
Rocky, which shot 31 percent from the field (including 4 of 22 from 3-point territory) on the night, didn’t get any closer than that in the second half. Carroll led by 30 points on a couple of occasions.
Snelling, a junior guard, drilled two 3-pointers and converted on a three-point play, in getting the Saints off to a hot start in the second half.
Carroll shot 11 of 24 from 3-point range — going 6 of 10 after intermission.
Kalee Junkermier and Katie Estey wound up with 12 points apiece for the Saints. Junkermier nailed four 3-pointers, while Baylee Watson grabbed 12 rebounds.
Kumm’s 10 points led Rocky.
“I think our focus was not there,” Rocky coach Brian Henderson said of his team’s performance. “Offensively we rushed some things. We didn’t trust one another, I don’t think, as far as making that extra pass...
“On the defensive end, we kind of got away from our scheme, which was to stay on their hip and follow and not get screened. That got them free for some open looks.”
The Bears have now lost five straight games.
“I would say this is one of our more disappointing outings,” Henderson said. “I know we’re a better team than what we showed tonight.”