By Kim Staudinger
After playing at home for three consecutive weeks, the Montana State University-Northern Skylights basketball team hopes to continue its winning ways at the University of Great Falls Invitational Tournament this weekend.
But the Skylights, who now sit at 6-2, know the Lady Argos (2-8) will not be an easy team to beat. While the first meeting between the two teams ended with a 103-63 win for Northern, coach Kevin Emerick expects the game to be a much closer one.
"It wasn't a good indicator of how the series is going to be," he said of the first matchup between the two teams. "I think Great Falls had an off night and we had a good night. It will be closer down there. I expect to have a good battle down there. I expect to have a close game."
Emerick also said the rivalry between UGF and Northern is starting to heat up again, especially with the players who have transferred between the two schools this past off-season.
The Skylights will have to contend with a tough point guard in Deena Wisneiwski, Chester native Carlane Jensen, Samantha Garrett, Karen Sauvola and former Chinook standout, Erin Acra.
The Skylights and Argos face off Saturday night at 8. Northern's first game of the tournament is tonight at 6 against Westminster.
According to Emerick, Westminster has "one kid (Rebekah Steenblik) back from last year that will be tough." Steenblik, a 5-foot-10 sophomore, is listed as a forward, but Emerick says she can play any position and will drive to the hoop, which will force the Skylights adjust defensively.
Also leading the way for Westminster are Amy Jensen and Ashlee Grange. Jensen is a 5-foot-5 junior who is "a really good ballhandler." Emerick also said Jensen is very quick and the Skylights had problems with pressing her. Grange is a 5-foot-7 senior guard who shot well the first time the two teams met up, someone the Skylights will have to stop in order to be succecssful.
Other starters for Westminster are freshman Lindsey Kelly and senior Jaclyn Walker.
Westminster, which is currently 0-7, is another team the Skylights will not be able to overlook. Emerick said they are well coached and that they have played a tough schedule and that the winless record is "not even indicative at all." He also said he expects Westminster to finish well in the conference and the game Friday night is a huge game for them at this point in their season.
Things continue to be tough for the Skylights after this weekend's tournament at Great Falls. In the next 10 days, Northern will have five games against conference teams. The two conference teams they will not face are sixth-ranked Lewis-Clark State and ninth-ranked Western.
Currently, the Skylights sit at 20th in the nation in the pre-season rankings. A new ranking will be released sometime Monday.
Emerick says the next 10 days will give a good indication of where Northern stands in the league.
The Northern Lights are also on the road this weekend at a tournament in Walla Walla, Wash.
Following this weekend, the Skylights' will be in Billings for the Frontier Conference Tip-Off Tournament. The Skylights face Tech Thursday afternoon at 4, Rocky Friday night at 9 and will wrap-up the tournament Saturday afternoon at 4 against Carroll. The Lights will be in Bozeman next weekend before leaving for a tournament in Hawaii.