By Ryan Divish
It wasn't perfect, but Montana State University-Northern women's basketball coach Mike Erickson will gladly take it. The Skylights' first road foray was a successful one with a 2-1 record at the University of Regina tournament in Regina, Sask.
"Obviously, we wanted to come home 3-0," Erickson said. "But overall, I saw a lot of positives from this weekend."
Northern started out extremely positive with a come-from-behind 67-61 victory over the University of Saskatchewan on Thursday night to open the tourney.
The Skylights trailed for much of the game, but rallied behind a stifling full-court defense that forced Saskatchewan into 20 turnovers and several easy baskets.
"We won the game on the defensive end," Erickson said. "We never did panic or get down on ourselves. We ran our full-court defense, got some steals and some easy transition baskets and took over the game."
Megan Valgardson came off the bench to score a game-high 21 points and grab five rebounds.
"Megan was sick earlier in the week so we didn't start her," Erickson said. "We have nice rotation going up front with Megan, DeLayne (Johnston), Michele (VanDyke) and Ashley (Trulock). Our post play was really consistent this weekend and has been all season."
Shooting guard Jaci Heny added 19 points and five rebounds, while point guard Camille Gardner had 11 points, nine assists and five rebounds. Johnston chipped in with 10 points.
On Friday, Northern had little trouble defeating an undermanned Brandon University squad 68-48.
"Brandon is in a transition year with a new coach and a lot of new players," Erickson said. "I felt like we let down a little and played down to their level of competition. Still, we did enough to win. We also got a chance to get everyone a lot of minutes, especially some of our younger players."
Indeed, 11 of the 12 Skylights got into the scoring column, led by Jessi Reome's 13 points, including three three-pointers. Kristie Pullin and Gardner added 10 points each.
However, after two wins in two nights, the Skylights' gas tank was obviously a little low in a 73-52 loss to the University of Regina on Saturday afternoon.
Northern led by as many as 12 in the first half, before wilting under Regina's constant fast-paced tempo.
"We were just running continuously," Erickson said. "We focused so much on getting back on defense that we got outrebounded badly. They dominated us on the boards."
Regina racked up 45 total rebounds, including 16 offensive boards, while Northern managed just 17 total rebounds.
It was a major difference in comparison to Northern's 80-67 defeat of Regina to open the season.
"That was the difference was the rebounding," Erickson said. "But they're a good team. They got a couple of good players back since that first game and they really played well."
Northern played well in the first half, but the Skylights' legs were missing that spring in the second half, managing just 17 points.
"Everything we shot was coming up short in the second half," Erickson said. "Fatigue was definitely a factor. They were really pressuring our guards and contesting every shot as well."
Reome led Northern with 15 points and another three three-pointers. Valgardson added 13 points, while Heny had 10 in the loss.
Even with the loss, Erickson saw positives.
"It really came down to execution in that game," Erickson said. "We saw all of the little things that we need to come back and work on. But we didn't let down and played hard for the entire game, which is what I want to see. Our goal is to only lose four games in the preseason and even with the loss, we can still meet that goal."
Northern will return to the road this weekend, when it travels to Helena for games against Dickinson State University and Albertson College.