HELENA – Not every Carroll College basketball fan could jump on a plane to Kansas City, so Student Activities Director Patrick Harris found a way to support the team right where they were Wednesday afternoon on campus.
A live stream of the game and free pizza were enough to bring students, faculty and fans into the door.
Among the pizza eaters was Caroline Cunningham, head coach Carson Cunningham’s daughter. Caroline was skipping school for this game, “Because it’s so exciting,” she said. “And it’s a really big accomplishment for Dad’s team and it’s really cool. They are first seed so that’s, like, awesome…. Because then they can play, not the bad teams, but the teams at the bottom of the [bracket.]”
The coach’s daughter has it right. Carroll drew a No. 1 seed and its tournament was under way. The first 10 minutes of this game was back and forth. The Saints were tied with eighth-seeded Mount Mercy (Iowa) in the early going.
But by halftime the Saints had made a lead thanks to senior Zach Taylor’s 17 points.
“I always figure if you get 13 points ahead in the first half, then you can get 13 points ahead in the second half,” said Harris, “So we will win by 26.”
Harris chuckled, but this game wasn’t quite over. The Mustangs made a run to get back within within eight points, but the fans in purple never wavered.
“I’m not nervous,” said Carroll student Mackenzie Hanson. “I’m very proud of the boys. I love watching them. They are just so fun to watch and have really good chemistry I think that they will pull through and go really far in this tournament.”
The Saints would go on to beat Mount Mercy 82-69 due to stellar free-throw shooting down the stretch. Sophomore guard Sam McMahon said the win is not a surprise.
“It was good, because I know they have been working hard all season long,” McMahon said. “So it’s no accident.”
Carroll will now face Southwestern Assemblies of God University (ASGU) Friday at 9:45 a.m. as they make their way through the Cramer side of the bracket.