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In a season unlike any other, Skylight seniors will cherish two more home games

 

Last updated 2/12/2021 at 9:15am

Colin Thompson

Montana State University-Northern Skylight seniors, back row left to right, Sydney Hovde, Tiara Gilham and Allix Goldhahn, front row, left to right, Peyton Kehr and McKenzie Gunter, pose for a photo in the halls of the Armory Gymnasium. It's been a tumultuous season for the Skylights, who play their final home games of the regular season Saturday and Sunday.

Start and stop. That's been the frustration of late for the Montana State University-Northern Skylights. Now though, the Skylights do get to start again.

After having their game with Providence canceled Wednesday due to COVID-19 contact tracing within the Argo program, the Skylights' third canceled game in two weeks, they'll be back in the Amory Gymnasium this weekend to close out the home portion of their schedule. Northern takes on Montana Western Saturday night and Sunday afternoon, and while it isn't a traditional senior weekend for the Skylights, they'll try to make the most of it.

Normally, Northern honors its adopted families and its seniors on the final home weekend of the season, but COVID has altered all of that. There are still no fans allowed at Frontier Conference games, so MSU-N seniors won't have a traditional sendoff this weekend.

Of course, nothing is traditional about this season for the seniors. Whether it's just trying to be a student-athlete during the pandemic, or playing in front of no fans, or the fact that, if they so choose, seniors can come back for another year of eligibility next year, for the Skylights and seniors all across the country, this winter has been unlike anything anyone has ever seen.

And that's why Northern head coach Chris Mouat is proud of his group of veterans, which includes Allix Goldhahn, Peyton Kehr, Sydney Hovde, Tiara Gilham and McKenzie Gunter.

"This group is a pretty amazing group of people," Mouat said. "They get along well and genuinely care about each other, and it shows. They have had some great basketball moments, too, both as individuals and as a team. I've been fortunate to watch each and every one of them grow on and off of the court, and know that they are all going to be highly successful in life."

The group that will be honored, in some fashion this weekend, consists of Northern's entire starting five, and while some of them may choose to play another year, everything is uncertain right now, just like the entire season has been.

The Skylights, who come into the final home weekend of the year with a 3-8 record in the Frontier Conference, will have to play a Western squad that has been surging this season, and they'll have to do it without many games under their belt. Northern had games at Providence canceled two weeks ago, then played Carroll College short-handed last weekend, before having a home game against the Argos back on Wednesday canceled, as well.

"It's a bummer," Mouat said of losing the Argo game. "We were looking forward to that game. We needed to get back out on the floor."

It didn't happen, however, and now the Skylights will have to do it against the Dawgs, who are 11-4 on the season, and who swept the Skylights in two tough games in Dillon lasty month. Led by double-digit scorers Brynley Fitzgerald and Shani Mack, the Dawgs, who won the 2019 NAIA national championship, are battling Carroll for a regular season championship, and the Skylights would love nothing more than to throw a wrench in those plans this weekend.

But it's not just about spoiling Western's chances of catching the Saints for a Frontier title. The Skylights are also still in a position to grab a top four spot in the final Frontier standings, and on top of all of that, they want to make sure they take advantage of their last regular season home games in this unusual season, including honoring their seniors in the best way they possibly can.

"I appreciate the work ethic this group has, and am thankful for each and every one of them," Mouat said of his senior class. "Each of these ladies has had a major impact on our program, and they are people to be proud of. They all lead in their own unique way, and collectively they make our leadership outstanding."

The Skylights will play the Bulldogs Saturday at 5 p.m. and again Sunday at 2 p.m. inside the Armory Gymnasium. Northern finishes the regular season at Rocky Mountain College next weekend.

 
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