George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor firstname.lastname@example.org
When looking at the list complied by area coaches and sports writers when trying to come up with an All Hi-Line girls basketball team, what is plainly clear is that there is no shortage of female basketball talent on the Hi-Line. Of the 11 players selected to the firstever Havre Daily News All Hi-Line girls basketball team, there were five unanimous choices, including one sensational freshman. Individual talent was a plenty on the list, but all 11 players also exemplified what they each mean to the team concept. Of the 11 players on the list, nine of them played on teams that went beyond the first week of the 2007 postseason.
Katie Mariani, Havre High School It’s never easy to crack the starting five at a larger Class A school like Havre High, let alone make an immediate impact on a team that hadn’t reached the Class A state tournament in six years, and was in the midst of a coaching change. But that’s exactly what HHS’s Katie Mariani did in 2006-07. Mariani, a 5-9 junior guard was among the Central A’s leading scorers this season, and also was one of the top 3-point shooters for an HHS team that won the Central A regular season championship, reached the Class A state tournament in Belgrade, and knocked off highly-touted Anaconda in the first round. Mariani averaged 15 points and five rebounds per game this season and shot better than 35 percent from beyond the arc. Season highlights for the sharpshooting guard who was Havre High’s sixth-man as a sophomore, included a breakout game against Anaconda at the state tournament in which she out-shined star forward Ali Hurley by scoring 27 points to lead the Ponies to victory. As a result of her stellar season, Mariani was a first-team all-conference selection, and she garnered all-tournament honors at the Class A state tourney. Going into her senior year, Mariani will be looked at as one of the top guards in Class A.
Jessica VanDyke, Chester/J-I Perhaps no freshman in the last five years has had the impact on Class C girls basketball than what Chester/J-I freshman Jessica VanDyke had this season. VanDyke, a 5-7 guard who’s sister , Michelle, starred for Montana State University-Northern, was among the leading scorers in all of Class C basketball this season. She averaged well over 20 points per game and had multiple 30- point games throughout the regular season on her way to earning Class C All- State honors. VanDyke also helped bridge the gap for a Hawks’ team that was coming off a second-place finish at the state tournament in 2006 and looking at a rebuilding year this season. However, with VanDyke in the backcourt, the Hawks won the District 10C regular season championship, finished second at the Northern C Divisional tournament and fourth at an extremely competitive Class C state tournament in Butte.
Natasha Dyrland, North Star When you look at North Star junior Natasha Dyrland’s career, it’s hard to believe that the 5-9 power forward is going to be a senior next season. That’s because Dyrland has started every game of her illustrious career at the former KG High School, and North Star. And in that time, Dyrland could be counted on to put up a double-double almost nightly. This past season, Dyrland averaged a double-double, scoring 15 points and pulling down 10 rebounds per game for a Knights’ team that finished strong in the District 9C. Although North Star narrowly missed out on advancing to the Northern C tournament, Dyrland was her usual dominating self in the 9C tourney in Havre, putting up nearly 20 points and 12 rebounds per game during the event. At seasons end, Dyrland had earned a third straight all-conference award and a second straight Class C All-State honor, with her senior season still to come.
Tori Belcourt and Loni Belcourt, Rocky Boy When you start for your high school basketball team for four straight seasons, and that team makes it to the divisional tournament every year, there isn’t much doubt about what kind of career you’ve had. And that’s the story of twin sisters Tori and Loni Belcourt at Rocky Boy High School. The 5-7 guards have helped guide Rocky Boy to one of its most successful runs in school history, highlighted by reaching the Class C state tournament two years ago. And both players made the most of their last season on the hardwood in a Morning Stars’ uniform. Tori Belcourt was a unanimous selection to the All Hi-Line team in 2007 after she led Rocky Boy in scoring and assists. She averaged 14 points and six assist per game and was one of the top 3-point shooters in the district. As a result, Tori earned her fourth straight All-Conference selection and her third Class C All-State honor. Meanwhile, Loni Belcourt had yet another solid season for Rocky Boy, including averaging 12 points and six rebounds per game. Both Belcourts helped change the face of the Rocky Boy program and the Morning Stars reached the pinnacle last month when they finally captured the 9C tournament title.
Rokki Parker, Box Elder If you want stability in a basketball player, look no further than Box Elder junior Rokki Parker. Another unanimous selection to the list, Parker has been dominating the District 9C paint for an astonishing three seasons. This season, Parker averaged 16 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game on her way to earning both all-conference and all-state honors. But perhaps more importantly, Parker improved in her passing and ball-handling skills this season, and as a result, Box Elder made the jump from last place a year ago, to fifth place in the 9C this season. Parker, who has averaged double figures in scoring for all three of her years at Box Elder, shined this past weekend at the Native American All-Star Game where she was voted the games’ Most Valuable Player after scoring 17 points to lead the North team to victory.
Shalayna Pearson, Big Sandy Another model of consistency on the girls list is Big Sandy senior Shalayna Pearson. The 5-10 power forward has been through it all when it comes to Class C basketball, including helping the Pioneers to back-to-back 9C titles and two straight trips to the Class C state tourney. In 2006, Pearson was a force at the Northern C divisional championship game and again at the state tournament where Big Sandy finished third. This year, Pearson battled injuries late in the season, but still managed to average over 12 points and eight rebounds per game, meaning she finished her high school career with a double- digit scoring average for four years at the varsity level. Pearson, who was also a standout volleyball player, was known as one of the most versatile forwards in the 9C, and in her career she earned all-conference honors four times and all-state honors three times.
Tricia Samson, Havre High Tricia Samson made the most out of the opportunity to play point guard for Havre in 2007. The 5-7 junior averaged eight points per game for the Blue Ponies and was among the Central A’s leaders in assists. Samson also had a breakout game at the biggest point in the Ponies’ season when she scored 20 points and dished out nine assists in Havre’s upset of Anaconda at the Class A state tournament in Belgrade. Samson, who earned all-conference honors this year, will be back for a talented HHS team next season, and she also stars for HHS in volleyball and track and field.
Erin Broncho, Rocky Boy Like many of the players from District 9C on the list, Rocky Boy’s Erin Broncho has been a starter for three seasons. This past year, Broncho put up 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks per game on her way to an all-conference season for the Morning Stars. The 6-0 junior center was spectacular during the 2007 9C tournament, including a 23-point, seven-rebound performance in the Morning Stars’ win over Big Sandy in the 9C title game.
Laci Keller, Big Sandy Of all the players on the All Hi-Line team, Big Sandy sophomore Laci Keller probably had the biggest jump in one season. As a freshman, Keller certainly helped the Pioneers, but in 2006-07, Keller was simply dominant. The 6-0 sophomore was almost unstoppable in the post this season, averaging a double-double and finishing the year ranked among the leaders in the Northern C in field goal percentage. For her efforts this season, Keller earned all-conference honors for the Pioneers.
Hope Hedges, Havre High Known as one of the fastest guards in all of Montana basketball, HHS sophomore Hope Hedges was like a bolt of lightning on the court for the Ponies this season. Hedges gave opposing defenses fits with her quick first step and her uncanny ability to harass bigger opponents. Hedges averaged nearly eight points and four assists per game for HHS, but perhaps her biggest impact on the Blue Ponies’ success came on the defensive end of the floor where she was among Class A’s leaders in steals.