BILLINGS — Mikayla Jones could have shot the 3-pointer.
And why not? The senior guard had the hot hand, already making two in the first quarter.
Instead, Jones found teammate Eboney Jackson on consecutive possessions for easier baskets.
Plays like that are the reason the Rocky Mountain College women’s basketball team shares first place in the Frontier Conference standings and is reaching historic heights in the NAIA Top 25 national poll.
The Battlin’ Bears (18-3, 8-3) pulled away from Montana State-Northern 58-46 Thursday night at the Fortin Center.
Rocky, ranked a program-best No. 15 in the nation, shares first place in the league standings with Carroll, a 59-47 winner over Providence on Thursday.
The Montana State-Northern men outscored the Battlin’ Bears 15-4 in the final five minutes for an 80-71 victory.
Both Rocky teams host Providence on Saturday.
Rocky women 58, MSU-N 46
Jones’ back-to-back assists to Jackson were during a 10-0 surge that started with her 3-pointer in the first quarter and finished in the second.
“Our whole team can shoot,” said Jones. “I trust any one of my teammates with the ball. I had the outside shot, but it’s better to go with the uncontested one.”
Jones finished with 15 points, including 13 in the first half.
“We want them to pass up the good shot for the great shot,” said Battlin’ Bears coach Wes Keller. “We want touches in the paint, the open three and have people cutting (to the basket) the whole time.
“This is the most unselfish group I’ve ever coached at Rocky.”
Jones’ only basket in the second half was also her most surprising.
The 5-foot-5 guard plucked a weakside rebound among a group of much taller players for the put-back.
“I always want to be a post player,” Jones said with a smile. “I have to make that play when I get the chance. I jumped up, got the rebound and was able to make the basket.
“That didn’t surprise me,” Keller added of the play. “She’s quick and has a nose for the ball. She knows where the ball is going to go.”
Hailee Farstveet added 14 points for the Battlin’ Bears while Brooke Jones had 10.
Rocky outscored the Skylights 31-18 in the paint and converted 24 Northern turnovers into 23 points.
The Battlin’ Bears rank second nationally in scoring defense, limiting teams to 43 points a game.
“Stop, score and stop. That’s what we want to do,” said Jones.
Peyton Filius led Northern (9-13, 1-10) with 10 points, while Brandy Lambourne had nine points and seven assists.
MSU-N men 80, Rocky 71
Every time the Battlin’ Bears got close, the Lights had an answer.
And one of those was turning their own free throw miss into a Justin Dunsmore basket and more comfortable 72-67 lead with 3:10 to play.
“One offensive rebound. That was huge,” said Rocky coach Bill Dreikosen.
The Battlin’ Bears were up five, 62-57 only a couple of minutes earlier. But Northern outscored Rocky 15-4 in the final five minutes of the game.
The Battlin’ Bears got within one, 72-71 on two Satchel McDonald free throws but Dunsmore answered with another basket.
“We couldn’t get a shot,” said Dreikosen of the closing minutes. “We got within one, but we couldn’t get back-to-back plays to give us a chance.”
Northern put five players in double figures, led by Gabe Porter’s 20 points. He had four of the Lights’ 10 3-pointers. Ryan Reeves added 17 points, while Dunsmore finished with 12. Caulin Bakalarski and Adam Huse each had 11.
Jared Samuelson led Rocky with 20 points. Danny Betcher posted a double-double of 10 points and 10 rebounds, while Austin Payne also had 10 points.
Guard Chad Kananen surpassed 1,000 career points last week against Carroll. The senior from Roy now has 1,011. Of his points, 723 have come from 3-pointers.