By Ryan Divish
The old saying is to respect your elders, but it doesn't mean you can't beat them on the basketball court. Both the Montana State University-Northern men's and women's basketball teams did exactly that, defeating their respective alumni teams Saturday as part of Northern's homecoming activities.
The Skylights picked up a tight 80-74 victory, while the Lights cruised to a 103-73 victory.
After practicing for just under two weeks, both teams were ready to play against somebody other than themselves.
The Skylights got a definite test in their first game of the season. The Skylights led by as many as 12 points during the game. However, Shelly (Oakland) Stremcha scored 12 of her game-high 20 points in the second half as the Alumni fought back. The team tied the game at 60 on her putback with under four minutes to play.
A long jumper from Stremcha gave the Alumni a 66-65 lead. However, Brettney Vermandel answered with a tough score inside, and Nichole Neill added a breakaway layup to retake the lead. Miranda Valley iced the game for the Skylights, knocking down four consecutive free throws in the final minute.
"I was proud of the girls for sticking together for having such a close game for our first game," said Skylights head coach Mike Erickson. "The alumni gave us a good game. They were really in good shape. We thought we might wear them down, but that didn't happen."
Vermandel led the Skylights with 18 points, while Anna Bateman and Davina Shoemake added 15 points apiece.
Laura Munson and Ronna Wright added 14 and 11 points, respectively, for the Alumni.
As with all first games, Erickson saw plenty that pleased him and plenty that his team needs to work on.
"We struggled a little offensively with our motion offense," Erickson said. "They have just got to get a feel for playing with each other."
While the women's game was close, the men's game was close for about the first five minutes. The Alumni grabbed a 2-0 lead on a Tabarus Phillips drive. It would be their only lead of the game. Reid Stovall answered with a pair of scores to give the Lights a lead they would never relinquish.
Northern outhustled and outscrapped the Alumni the entire game. The Lights led by as many as 15 in the first half. However, the Alumni, behind the play of Tim Henry and Buck Meriweather, managed to cut into the lead. Meriweather's long three-pointer brought the Alumni within four at 57-53. But baskets from Koire Rogers, Brian McGowan, Leo Bull Child and a three-pointer from Landen Grant pushed the Light lead back to 10.
"It wasn't perfect," said Lights head coach Shawn Huse. "Technically, there were a lot of things not correct, but the hustle and the effort was there."
Unlike their counterparts, the men's alumni team wasn't in quite as good shape. The Alumni ran out of gas down the stretch as Northern pulled away. While Huse obviously expects other teams to be in better shape than the Alumni, he doesn't expect them to be in better shape than his team.
"Conditioning is one of our strengths," Huse said. "We don't have a lot of size, but we have a lot of heart. We need to be a scrappy team, a relentless team."
Walter Runsabove led the Lights with 21 points, while Larry Morinia and Charlie Ereaux each added 11 points. Runsabove, Bull Child and Derek Azure, who will all redshirt this season, started the game for the Lights.
"I wanted to let them start and get some satisfaction," Huse said. "They have to practice all year and basically be cheerleaders during games so it was nice to get them some playing time."
Henry led the Alumni with 19 points, while Meriweather had 17 points, including five three- pointers.
Both the Lights and Skylights will be in action on Tuesday when they travel to Wolf Point to face Dawson Community College in scrimmage games. The games will have four 10-minute quarters and will be a chance for the teams to face competition that is closer in terms of conditioning.
"This will be a truer test," Huse said. "We will be playing current college players that have been practicing every day and preparing like us."
MSU-NORTHERN LIGHTS (103): Larry Morinia 4 2-2 11; Zach McLean 2 0-0 5; Koire Rogers 2 1-2 5; Reid Stovall 3 0-0 6; Lamar Morinia 3 1-2 8; Landen Grant 3 0-0 7; Kent Douglas 3 0-0 6; Travis Moran 3 0-0 7; Brian McGowan 2 0-0 4; Charlie Ereaux 4 0-0 11; Dragan Cicveric 1 0-0 2; Leo Bull Child 3 0-0 7; Walter Runsabove 9 0-0 21; Derek Azure 1 0-0 3; Team: 43 4-6 103.
LIGHTS ALUMNI (73): Nate Larson 1 0-0 2; Kevin Owens 3 0-3 6; Randy Robinson 3 0-0 6; Art Krueger 5 0-2 11; Buck Meriweather 6 0-2 17; Tabarus Phillips 4 4-6 12; Tim Henry 7 4-6 19; Totals: 29 8-21 73.
Three point field goals: Northern 13 (Ereaux 3, Runsabove 3, Larry Morinia, McLean, Lamar Morinia, Grant, Moran, Bull Child, Azure. Alumni 7 (Meriweather 5, Krueger, Henry); Fouled out: none.
MSU-NORTHERN SKYLIGHTS (80): Miranda Valley 1 8-8 10; Katie Zilkoski 2 0-0 5; Anna Bateman 4 4-5 15; Kristal Lohse 2 0-0 4; Nichole Neill 2 1-2 5; Lindsey Buehler 2 2-2 6; Brettney Vermandel 6 5-11 18; Davina Shoemake 5 4-5 15; Francine Kill Eagle 1 0-0 2; Totals: 25 25-33 80.
SKYLIGHTS ALUMNI (74): Ronna Wright 5 1-2 11; Kristine Noel 1 0-0 2; Amanda Noel 0 0-1 0; Sarah Gaugler 2 2-3 8; Kari Filius 1 2-4 4; Shelly Oakland 8 3-4 20; Bobbi Remus 1 0-0 3; Kelsy Burgmaier 3 0-1 6; Laura Munson 4 5-5 14; Totals: 27 15-27 74.
Three point field goals: Northern 5 (Bateman 3, Zilkoski, Shoemake); Skylights Alumni 3 (Oakland, Remus, Munson); Fouled out: Shoemake.