Havre Daily News Sports Editor
It has been nearly two weeks since the Montana State University-Northern Skylights made their regular-season debut under new head coach Chris Mouat.
Since that lopsided win over Thompson Rivers University, the MSU-N program was dealt a serious blow when it was learned that senior transfer and former Havre High standout Jayla McPherson was lost for the season with a torn ACL in her knee. McPherson, who transferred to Northern from the University of Great Falls, will seek a medical redshirt from the NAIA. Mouat hopes to have her healthy and back in a Skylight uniform next season.
“Jayla brought a lot to our program,” Mouat said. “She is a great example of what we want a Skylight player to be.
“She will be sorely missed this season but she will still be with us,” he added. “She will still learn a lot and I believe she'll make the most out of this bad situation and she will be a better player next year. Jayla is a very strong-minded person and she will persevere.”
The loss of McPherson leaves Mouat with nine varsity players as they prepare to host the University of Lethbridge on Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. Aside from the blow to the Skylights' depth, making up for McPherson's contributions will be a top priority for Mouat's team.
“Jayla brought 11 points and eight rebounds a game to us from Great Falls,” Mouat said.
“But we have talked about the fact that everyone will have to step up and contribute a little more to make up for the loss,” he said. We have been working hard in practice, and I think this team is ready to do that.”
That means scoring and productivity will have to come from the Skylight's already thin bench. In their win over Thompson Rivers, reserves Delayne Johnston and Ashley Trulock stepped up and led the Skylights in scoring. Mouat will need more of the same the rest of the way, now that McPherson will be sidelined.
The Skylights will welcome a very solid Lethbridge team that has already played three Frontier Conference teams this season. The Pronghorns have a win against Montana Tech as well as losses to UM-Western and Carroll College. While Mouat hasn't seen the Pronghorns much in person, he knows they will present a stern, early-season test for the Skylights.
“Lethbridge has very good basketball players, and they are athletic and play very hard,” he said. “They are very capable of scoring points, which makes them a very dangerous opponent. Playing good defense will be key for us this weekend.”
Mouat would like to see his team clean up some things against the Pronghorns. In its only game of the season, MSU-N routed Thompson Rivers University despite committing 22 turnovers.
“We definitely need to take better care of the basketball,” Mouat said. “I would also like to see us execute our offense better. Our shot selection wasn't poor against Thompson Rivers, but we need to continue to get better offensively in that regard.”
The Skylights and Pronghorns will tip off at 6 p.m. on Saturday night and again at 4 p.m. Sunday. All of the action will take place at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse in Havre.