When the Montana State University-Northern women’s basketball team went to Las Vegas for the annual Las Vegas Shootout earlier this week, the Skylights had three games in which to prepare for the upcoming Frontier Conference season.
So playing well in Las Vegas was at a premium. And after a hard-fought 75-62 win over Siena height College out of Michigan on Thursday night, the Skylights can come home feeling prepared for the start of conference play.
“Overall, I think we played four halves of basketball this week where were very good, very sharp and just overall, maintained a high level of play,” Northern head coach Chris Mouat said. “There was a half against Fresno and a half tonight (Siena) where we weren't as solid, but for the most part, we played at a high level down here, so I’m really happy with what we achieved.
“And we beat to, hard-nosed scrappy teams back to back,” he added. “So I’m happy with how the kids played and I think we got we needed. We saw improvement and we wanted to make sure we were getting better before we started conference play, and I think we’ve done that.”
After blowing out Ursuline on Wednesday afternoon, the Skylights’ final game in Las Vegas was a ballet, for at least the first half. Northern’s Laramie Schwenke hit a half-court shot at the buzzer to put the Skylights up 33-30 at the end of the first 20 minutes. But in the second half, MSU-N picked up the pace on both ends of the floor, built a lead and played well with it, and wound up winning by a double-digit margin.
“They (Siena) really played us tough and they were very fats up and down the floor,” Mouat said. “We weren’t ready for their speed at the start of the game, and that first half was a bit of a struggle. But credit our kids. They hung in there and really played a great second half. We got much better on defense, and for a time Samm (Schermele) carried the load on offense. So it was a good win, and it was gratifying that we’re leaving here on a high note.”
Schermele was Northern’s offensive catalyst for a third straight night. She scored a game-high 29 points on 10-of-25 shooting. She also went 8-of-10 from the foul line and grabbed six rebounds, and over the course of three games, she averaged 24 points and six rebounds per game and has now moved into fifth place on MSU-N’s all-time scoring list.
Northern also got another strong outing from Courtney Blume, who scored 12 points and grabbed five boards, while Schwenke chipped in with nine points as the Skylights improved to 9-7 overall.
“Samm played great all week,” Mouat said. “But we also had a lot of contributions from a lot of different players. We got to get all our kids meaningful playing time and everybody stepped up. It was good to see build some depth this week, and overall, it was just a really good three games for our team.”
The Skylights will open Frontier Conference plat at the University of Great Falls on Friday night.