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Skylights brace for visits from big rivals

 

December 1, 2017

Havre Daily News/Colin Thompson

Peyton Filius, left, and the Montana State University-Northern Skylights open Frontier Conference play tonight against Rocky Mountain College and Saturday night against Carroll in Havre. Both games tip at 6 p.m. inside the Armory Gymnasium.

The Montana State University-Northern women's basketball team has certainly challenged itself in the last two weeks, playing some top competition on the road. And while the Skylights are happy to be back in the friendly confines of the Armory Gymnasium, things aren't getting an easier.

The No. 21 Skylights (5-3) open Frontier Conference play tonight against Rocky Mountain College, followed by a showdown with arch rival Carroll College Saturday night. Both games tip at 6 p.m. in the Armory.

And not only will Northern be severely tested by both Frontier stalwarts, the Skylights will be short-handed as well. Northern is currently without second-leading scorer Shiloh McCormick, who suffered an injury two weeks ago, but leading scorer Jacy Thompson is also questionable for this weekend's games due to illness.

"We definitely have our hands full in both games," MSU-N head coach Chris Mouat said. "Everyone who plays in these games will need to contribute, because both teams are really good."

The Skylights are no slouches either, though. In the last four games, Northern has played two NCAA Division II opponents and two nationally-ranked NAIA powers, and while all four were losses, all of those games were by single digits. Defensively, Northern has been its dominant self, allowing just 57 points per game. Offensively, the Skylights are led by Thompson, who is pouring in 14 points per game, while Peyton Filius is coming on strong, averaging 13 per night. Senior Brandy Lambourne is averaging 10 points per night, and post players Jessica Curl and Kaelani Sagapolu combine for 15 points and 14 rebounds per outing. McCormick was averaging 12 points and 10 rebounds per game before her injury.

But as much firepower as the Skylights still have, they'll be up against two teams this weekend that have a lot of power of their own.

Rocky (5-0) is unbeaten coming into tonight's contest, and defensively, the Bears have been suffocating, allowing opponents to score just 34 points per night. Veterans Hailee Farstveet(5-11) and Justyn Juhl (6-0) lead the Bears, but standouts like Brooke Jones (5-11) and Alexi Smith (5-9) also averaging double digits thus far.

"Rocky is very deep and talented," Mouat said. "They have all of the pieces and have been playing very well.  Coach (Wes) Keller has them playing very hard and they are doing good things at both ends.  And, they have a deep bench.  They can just keep bringing good kids in who can hurt you.  Hailee Farstveet is one of the best players in the league and she's a nightmare matchup because of her length at the point.  She is a very seasoned leader for them and just does a great job.

"We are going to have to do a great job on the boards and limit their second-chance points, and we are going to have to be very efficient on offense," Mouat added. "I expect to see some pressure in the full-court from them, and we are going to have to be prepared to handle it, get into offense, and execute.  This is a really good team whose only losses are exhibition games against NCAA teams and they pose a ton of challenges."

And if Rocky wasn't tough enough, Carroll will be even more of a challenge. The Fighting Saints (4-1) are loaded with talent, and have a win over NCAA Division I Boise State this season. Led by returners Hannah Dean (6-1), Bailey Pasta (5-6) and Mikyala Dowdy (6-1), the Saints are tall and strong. Carroll also boasts former Havre Blue Pony Dani Wagner.

"Carroll is again physical and tough inside," Mouat said. "I think their perimeter game is also really good. They have shooters who can really get going.  But as always, their ability to clean up on the offensive glass makes them unique and really hard to match up with. They have big, big wins already this season, including a one-point win over Boise State and a win at number seven Westmont College.  They are playing very well and at a really high level.  They have changed their style defensively quite a bit from years past and I think it suits them well. They have a lot of experience inside and out, and they are solid across the board.  We are going to have to do a good job of taking care of the ball against their pressure, and as always, we are going to have to rebound with them. Year in and year out, they just do a great job on the boards."

Tonight's Frontier opener between Northern and Rocky tips off at 6 in the Armory. Saturday's game between the Skylights and Saints also tips at 6 p.m. The Skylights are also home to face Nueta Hidatsa Dec. 15-16.

 

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