By Ryan Divish
A few words of advice to the Rocky Mountain College women's basketball team. You know that game tape from your 78-62 win over the Montana State University-Northern Skylights on Dec. 6 - don't spend too much time studying it because the Northern team on that tape doesn't even compare to the Northern team on the floor right now.
A completely different Skylight team in terms of attitude, style of play and intensity will take the floor tonight in a rematch with the Battlin' Bears at the Fortin Center on the Rocky Mountain College campus.
Since Dec. 30, the Skylights have reeled off wins in eight of nine games including four in a row with a stellar 86-84 win over Frontier Conference favorite UM-Western. Northern currently sits atop the Frontier with a 3-0 record and 12-9 record overall.
It hasn't been done with smoke and mirrors, rather it's been done with a new intense, up-tempo style of play that has renewed the players enthusiasm and confidence in the game.
In their last nine games, the Skylights have averaged 79.6 points per game and are shooting around 47 percent from the field speared by a new philosophy on offense of get out and get to the basket as fast as possible.
However, unlike UGF, UM-Western and Montana Tech, Rocky will be much more comfortable in the up-tempo style. In fact, in the last game, the Bears outran a flat Skylight team off its own floor during the Frontier Conference tip-off tournament.
Thanks to a pair of transfers, Rocky is third in the conference with a 2-1 record and 10-6 overall. Idaho State transfer Alisha Hayden and former Skylight Jenny Balgua have made a definite impact for the Bears this season.
Hayden is the third leading scorer in the conference with a 15.6 point per game average and at 5-11 she can score inside and also step outside and knock down the outside shot.
Balgua, a 5-5 package of speed and intensity, is the unquestioned on court leader for Rocky. She is quite capable of handling Northern's full court pressure while causing problems defensively as evidenced by her league leading 2.44 steals per game.
Besides Hayden and Balgua, Rocky gets a solid contribution from former Malta standout Stacy Nevrivy and Ashley and Amber Griffith.
On Saturday, Northern will travel to Helena to face the Carroll College Fighting Saints to wrap up the weekend.
Carroll, 1-2 in Frontier and 8-11 overall, is coming off a 1-1 weekend which included a solid 55-50 victory over a tough Lewis-Clark State team.
Despite their record, Carroll has the talent to contend for a league title. The Saints are led by the scoring duo of Tara Zoanni and Charla Ray.
Zoanni, a former Conrad star, transferred to Carroll from the University of North Dakota and is averaging 12.5 points per game despite drawing much attention from opposing defenses.
Ray, who prepped at Big Sandy, is leading Carroll with a 13.2 point per game average and also pulls down close to six rebounds a game. At 5-10, she can score inside and is very active on glass.
Carroll also gets solid contributions from former Chester standout Carly Van Dyke and shooting guard Jen Driscoll.
The key for Carroll will be how Driscoll and point guard Lindsey Scott handle Northern's full court pressure. Last weekend in Carroll's win, Hart was able to weather Lewis-Clark's full-court pressure and must repeat that performance against Northern.
Both games of the Skylight games tip off at 6 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and can be heard on 92.5 KPQX-FM.