George Ferguson Havre Daily News sports editor email@example.com
If you're a fan of college sports, than there is no place you would rather be than Havre starting this afternoon. Montana State University-Northern is playing host to basketball, football, wrestling and volleyball on the same weekend. The weekend is highlighted by the annual Northwestern Energy Coaches vs Cancer Classic basketball tournament. The tourney, featuring the Lights and Skylights, as well as Rocky Mountain College, Haskell Indian Nations, Northern New Mexico and Vanguard University, will raise money for cancer, including donations from a portion of the proceeds going to the Sletten Hi- Line Cancer Center and a portion of the 3-point money going to the Coaches vs Cancer Foundation. Here's a look at each event taking place this weekend. Lights Basketball Today, the Montana State University- Northern men's basketball team will put its 2-0 start to the season on the line in the first of two games it will play in the annual Northernwestern Energy/ Coaches vs Cancer Classic. MSU-N opens up against Haskell Indian Nations tonight at 6 and the Lights will face Northern New Mexico on Saturday at 6 p.m. Both teams will present a stern challenge for the Lights and head coach Shawn Huse, who started the tourney when he arrived at MSU-N. "Haskell is athletic, talented and very good," Huse said. "They have several really good, athletic players and they are big and physical. "We certainly expect to have our hands full with them, that's the way we've prepared for them and Northern New Mexico this week," he added. "We are going into these games not having seen much of either team, but on paper, they both look very, very good, so we are preparing for two very tough and challenging games." The Lights opened their season last Saturday with a rousing win over the University of Regina. In that game, guards Travis Noble and Chris Johnson scored 24 and 23 points, respectively, and they combined to hit nine 3-pointers. In Huse's opinion, MSU-N couldn't have played any better in its first outing. "The guys really came out focused and determined," Huse said. "I think they were very anxious to play after the way the season ended for us last year. They had been waiting a long time for that first game, and there was just no way they were going to be denied. "Now we've got two tough teams this weekend," he added. "And hopefully, that determination and focus will carry over, because both these teams are good, and we will have to be ready to play from the opening tip." Haskell, which pushed Rocky Mountain College in the opening game of the tournament on Thursday night, is led by former Harlem star Ben Carrywater and Browning native D.J. Fish. Northern New Mexico is also tall, long and athletic according to Huse and the Eagles will be a formidable foe on Saturday night. Skylights Basketball The Skylights are making their season debut today at 2 against Northern New Mexico. The game is a prelude to MSU-N's Saturday night showdown with defending NAIA national champion Vanguard, the third-ranked team in the country. And while Vanguard is as good as any team MSU-N will face all season, Skylights head coach Chris Moaut isn't overlooking the Eagles today. "They (Eagles) are very good," Mouat said. "We haven't seen much of them, but we know they very athletic and they can hurt you in many different ways. "Vanguard obviously presents us with a lot of challenges, especially for our young guards.," he added. "But Northern New Mexico is a very good team and a really tough first opponent for us. We certainly are going to have to be ready to play right away." The Skylights begin the 2008-09 with a host of talented players, including two returning starters in Stacie Barker and Kaylee Shaw. Taylor Keller and Samm Scheremele are key returning guards, while Jenni Lee and Jordan Kambich are back to bolster Northern's front court. And the Skylights will need all of their talent against Vanguard on Saturday night. The Lions, of Costa Mesa, Calif., went 29-5 last season on their way to the NAIA women's championship, and while they did lose several key players from that team, they have a talented mix of veterans and newcomers alike. "Vanguard is still an outstanding team," Mouat said. "They have size, they have good guards and they defend. They are going to be a very tough test for us. But we're excited about the opportunity to get the NAIA champions on our home floor. It's going to be a great game for the fans and a huge test for our basketball team at this point in the season." Lights Wresting After three warmup duals, the Montana State University-Northern wrestling team makes its season debut tonight at 8 at the MSU-Northern Fieldhouse against North Idaho College. Tonight's dual will be the first offi- cial match for MSU-N under first-year head coach and former Lights great Tyson Thivierge. And it's a big opening weekend for the Thivierge era. Tonight, the Lights will face a North Idaho team that has been consistently one of the best programs in the NJCAA. The Cardinals finished third at the NJCAA national tournament a year ago, and they return several key wrestlers from that squad. MSU-N will counter with a young, but talented team, which includes defending NAIA 125-pound champion Cory Borges, as well as veterans like Colt Heger, Carlos Alaniz, Robbie Shaw, Austin Ouelette and Colter Dimas. Northern's roster is also bolstered by the likes of former Havre High star Evan Hinebauch as well as Evan Mattingly, Beau LaSalle and others. The Lights have looked good in the preseason, but tonight's match with North Idaho will be a stern test, as well as a prelude to Sunday's big dual in Great Falls against NCAA Division I power Boise State. The Lights and Cardinals are slated to hit the mat tonight at 8, and MSU-N faces Boise State Sunday afternoon at the McLaughlin Center in Great Falls. Skylights Volleyball Even though the Montana State University-Northern volleyball team is at home for the final time this weekend, the Skylights will be playing in an unfamiliar gym. Tonight, Northern (1-9, 1-15) will face Rocky Mountain College at 7 at the Havre High gymnasium, and on Saturday at 7 p.m., the Skylights will play Carroll College at HHS. Northern is coming off a tough road trip with losses at Westminster College and Lewis-Clark State. And tonight's match won't get any easier. RMC (8-2, 14-6) is alone in second place in the Frontier Conference standings, and the Bears already own a win over MSU-N this season. On Saturday, the Skylights will face Carroll (7-3, 17-6), a team that the Skylights have lost two three times this year, including two in nonconference play. However, the Skylights have pushed the Saints, and Saturday's final home match of the season for MSU-N should be a good one. The Skylights are getting good productivity from middle hitter Kaylee Bossert, as well as outside hitters Brittany Baker and Sheena McInnes. Jordan Merrill and Montana Johnson are sharing the setting duties.