By Jason Shoot
With finals quickly approaching, Montana State University-Northern women's basketball coach Kevin Emerick is struggling to keep his athletes' minds fresh and crisp.
"We've looked tired, just mentally tired," Emerick said of the Skylights, who are ranked No. 22 in the latest NAIA poll. "We've had study hall every night, and we're going to take it easy on them (Wednesday)."
Northern will get no sympathy from its three opponents at the Frontier Tip-Off Tournament this weekend at Billings, where the Skylights will square off against three conference foes in non-league action.
Northern (8-1) will open tournament play against Great Falls today at 4 p.m. The Skylights will follow against Rocky Mountain College at 8 p.m. Friday and finish the weekend against 12th-ranked Western Montana at 4 p.m. Saturday.
Lana Quintyne, who was named the Frontier's women's player of the week last week, is averaging a conference-high 20.9 points per game, but Emerick is more pleased with the efficiency with which she is scoring her points.
"I'm happy with this aspect: she's averaging maybe 22, 23 minutes a game and is still putting up those kind of numbers," Emerick said. "Lana has improved to the point where she can come in for 22 or 23 minutes and get 23 points. She still needs to work on her defense and rebounding, but she's doing that."
Point guard Davina Shoemake is second among Frontier players in assists (5.0 per game) and free throw shooting (83.3 percent).
Emerick also expressed he is satisfied with his team's progression through this season.
"We knew we had potential to do this, but a lot of times you don't know when that potential is going to show," Emerick said. "But this is by no means the whole season.
"We're not quite ready for the conference right now, but we're getting there. We've got a chance in the next two weeks to play the 17th- and 12th-ranked teams in the nation."
Emerick was referring to Western Montana and Wayland Baptist, a team the Skylights will face when they travel to Cancun, Mexico for the Torneo Cancun Shootout Dec. 15-22.
"We keep looking at short-term goals," Emerick said. "We may not take them one game at a time, but instead use two or three games to build toward one game."