Skylights try to overcome adversity, injury
Motivation can come from a variety of things. It can come from revenge, reward or even respite.
But for the Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team, the best motivation has come from adversity. The Skylights weathered an 0-5 start, a broken foot to starter Miranda Valley and the loss of Davina Shoemake during midseason to still be among the top teams in the Frontier Conference.
Make no mistake, the Skylights have experienced enough adversity for three teams and managed to persevere. Northern will be looking for a little motivation through misfortune this weekend as they host Carroll College tonight and Rocky Mountain College on Saturday with only eight healthy players.
Anna Bateman, Northern's leading scorer and on-court leader, suffered a broken foot last weekend and is done for the season.
Bateman, who had problems with her left foot all season, put so much pressure on her right foot overcompensating that it snapped on Friday night. Bateman still played a night later against Western, but was near tears because of the pain just before the game.
Besides the loss of Bateman, junior forward Francine KillEagle decided to leave the team last Friday following the loss to Montana Tech. According to head coach Mike Erickson KillEagle wasn't enjoying the game of basketball anymore and just didn't want to play.
That leaves with Erickson with the eight players, a mountain of adversity and hopefully the motivation to overcome it.
"We needed something to motivate us following the two losses," Erickson said. "Obviously, this isn't what we wanted, but we have to come out and play because our backs are against the wall. And we have played pretty well this season when that has happened."
The Skylights are far from packing it in and calling it a season. Northern needs just one win or one Montana Tech loss in the remaining four games to assure themselves of a first-round home playoff game.
But the fact still remains, the Skylights must find a way to pick up the 15 points per game that Bateman was averaging.
"Obviously, we're losing some offense," Erickson said. "I don't know how we're going to do it because we haven't been very good offensively, lately."
Bateman was about the closest thing Northern had to a pure scorer. Erickson isn't looking for one specific player to pick up the slack, rather he wants all eight players to pick it up.
"We need everybody to add three to four points each game," Erickson said. "We need to relax on offense and just play basketball. We've almost been robotic in our half-court offense. I am not asking any one person to step up, everyone has to step up."
The losses also hurt Northern defensively. With only eight players, there is no way Erickson can run his full-court pressure defense all game. Fatigue will be too much of a factor.
"We won't be able to press all game," Erickson said. "That makes the first 10 minutes key. We can't get down by 10 or 12 because we don't have the scoring or the ability to press to get us back in the game."
The Skylights did exactly that against Carroll College the first time they met this season. Northern was down as much as 15 in the first half before storming back to pick up a 78-70 win.
The Saints are led by former Conrad star Tara Zoanni and a pair of Hi-Line standouts in Chester's Carly VanDyke and Big Sandy's Charla Ray. Zoanni averages 13 points per game and is a solid outside shooter. VanDyke and Ray combine for over 20 points and 10 rebounds per game.
It doesn't get any easier for Northern on Saturday as the Rocky Mountain College Bears come to Havre with plenty of motivation themselves. Northern defeated Rocky, 77-68, in Billings and the Bears will be out for some revenge.
"We surprised everyone the first time around with our full-court pressure," Erickson said. "Rocky had some trouble with our pressure, but we won't be able to play that for 40 minutes this time."
The Bears are led by a forward Alisha Hayden, who is among the Frontier's top scorers. Rocky shot a paltry 3-30 from three-point range, but former Skylight guard Jenny Balgua, Rae Dawn Lei and Amber and Ashley Griffith are still dangerous threats from the outside.
Despite everything that happened this week, Erickson is positive about the weekend.
"I think we'll be all right," Erickson said. "I think we will be motivated enough to come out and get a win."
Tonight will be the final regular season home game for Northern's lone senior Miranda Valley. But Erickson hopes it isn't her last home game.
"We can get that win and get a home playoff game," Erickson said. "These ladies are such competitors."