Same Destination, Different Journey

15 03 2011

Senior guard Stephanie Stender was named Conference Tournament MVP after averaging over 13 points and 7 rebounds a game.

March 15, 2011

Despite Montana’s rich history of NCAA appearances (18 coming into this season), much of this season didn’t look like another return was prominent for the ladies.

Sure they had some bright spots during the season.  The team rode the momentum from their upset over conference rival Montana State to a 6-game conference win streak during February.

By the season’s end however, their endeavors were not as successful.  The team dropped three of it’s final four conference games to close out the regular season, giving them a tough task as the #4 seed in the Big Sky Conference tournament.

But apparently nobody mentioned  anything about that difficulty to these girls… more likely they just didn’t care.  The team cruised past Idaho State 66-53, took care of Northern Colorado 55-46, and then held on in the championship 62-58 over #1 seed Portland State in Portland.

Reasons?

1. Head Coach Robin Selvig hasn’t won over 700 games by luck.

2. The freshmen (such as Lexie Nelson, Jordan Sullivan, and Torry Hill) have been surprisingly clutch and ready to play.

3.  Senior Stephanie Stender has been a consistent force for the team all season, and really took over some clutch/leadership roles in the conference tourney.

So what’s next? UCLA on Saturday afternoon in the first round of the NCAA tournament in Spokane, WA.

The contest will follow the early game of Saturday’s two-game session between No. 6 Iowa (22-8) and No. 11 Gonzaga (28-4). The Hawkeyes and Bulldogs will play at 2 p.m. (MT).The first-round winners will meet Monday at 7:30 p.m. (MT) for the opportunity to advance to the round of 16.

Montana (18-14) is making its third appearance at the NCAA tournament in the last four years and the program’s 19th overall.

UCLA (27-4), one of the tournament’s at-large selections, lost to just two teams this season: LSU and Stanford.UCLA is making its second straight trip to the NCAA tournament and its 11th overall.

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Riley Bradshaw Leads Blue Devils Back to State

1 03 2011

The fearsome duo of junior guard Riley Bradshaw (left) and senior guard Rodee Anderson (right) return to the State A Tournament.

 

March 1, 2011

The term “career performance” is not a light phrase when it comes to the talented play of Corvallis’ Riley Bradshaw: but the junior point guard will be hard-pressed to find better days than he had last night.

With a state tournament berth on the line, Bradshaw lit up the court for 41 points en route to Corvallis’ 71-56 win over Stevensville.  He was 6-7 from beyond the arc and 11-13 at the charity stripe.

The Yellowjackets meanwhile went just 5-22 from three as a team and thus played in their final game of the season.  Josh Schultz led Stevi scorers with 19 in the contest.

The Blue Devils take the #2 seed from the Southwest into Butte this week for the Class A State Tournament.  The road goes uphill for the Devils who will face the defending State Champion Laurel Locomotives at 2:00 PM Thursday in the first round.

Having covered Corvallis very closely this season, the Blue Devils have a definite chance to beat anybody and everybody at State.  Stevi is a very talented team, but despite double-teaming Bradshaw nearly every possession he still found 41 points last night.  Couple Bradshaw with the quickness and perimeter shooting that Rodee Anderson brings to the table and you have nearly unstoppable guard play.

However Corvallis lacks a solid post presence, and that is a very large ‘Achilles heel’ to have.  Their posts fight hard and know their roles, but they are undersized against nearly every team Corvallis faces.

If the opposition allows Corvallis to execute their high tempo fast-break attack then their chances of keeping up offensively are slim to none.  However if they focus on their transition defense and force the Devils to slow it down, they’ll have a chance.  The biggest key will be rebounding: between Corvallis being undersized and their lights-out shooting, the opposition will need to utilize size advantage to limit the number of Corvallis possessions.  Because if you give the Bradshaw-Anderson duo enough touches… they will beat you.

Riley Bradshaw and Rodee Anderson Highlights





Grizzlies Favored to Win PAC-10

16 12 2010

Senior Brian Qvale scored a new career high against the Beavers with 27 points

December 16, 2010

Well okay… maybe that headline is getting a little carried away… but after going 2-0 against PAC-10 teams this season it certainly isn’t an unwarranted question (putting as at 3-1 against PAC-10 foes in the past two seasons). The UM mens basketball team took care of business at home last night against Oregon State 71-66 four a sixth win in our past eight games.

This win comes less than two weeks after Montana’s convincing 66-57 victory over UCLA in Pauley Pavillion.  To be honest, I’m not surprised at all by this early season successes.  When the Griz are playing well I don’t see many teams we can’t contend with.

Big man Brian Qvale is averaging over 15 points and 8 boards a game and is everything a coach can ask for as a defender and a leader.  Qvale is also posting an impressive 3.6 blocks per game (as he approaches the all-time conference and team records for career blocks).  Off the court he’s a great guy whom I had an opportunity to do a profile on earlier this month.  Qvale locks down the post-game and is probably the most valuable big man in the entire conference.

Meanwhile our point guard play out of sophomore Will Cherry hasn’t been too shabby either.  He only leads the nation in steals with 4.2 per game and leads the team in scoring with 16 ppg.  And he is a ridiculously good defender! I already gave you the steal numbers but he’s more than that.  In our zone defense he’s all over every opponent on the perimeter.  Last night against the Beavers he seemed to get a piece of a pass nearly every other time down the floor, and yet his crazy quickness comes with an equally impressive level of self control; he’s only averaging two personal fouls a game.  The only possible thing the team can ask for more of from Cherry would be his numbers at the charity stripe as he’s making just 62% of his free throws through the first ten games of the season.

The team as a whole is just a few free throws from posting an 8-2 record early on (close calls to Portland and San Francisco have us sitting at 6-4) and we’re still two weeks out from opening up conference play.  Keep your eyes on the Grizzlies… and a possible 2nd straight NCAA tournament appearance.





Grizzly Basketball Shocks UCLA

9 12 2010

December 8, 2010

Well the Montana Grizzlies are living up to their high expectations so far in this young basketball season… and what better way to continue doing so than to upset the UCLA Bruins in Pauley Pavillion?

That’s exactly what the Griz did this past weekend (Sunday December 5th).  Montana took a 4-point lead into halftime and led the rest of the way… finishing the game with a huge 66-57 win over the Bruins.  Sophomore point guard Will Cherry continued his early season brilliance with 18 points and 5 assists in the game.  Senior post Brian Qvale added 13 points and 10 boards for his seventh career double double.

The marquee victory was Montana’s first ever against UCLA in five total meetings.  The win marks the second time in just two years that the Griz have defeated a PAC-10 opponent on the road.  The win improves the squad to 4-3 on the year after early-season losses to tough teams in Nevada, Utah and Portland.

Cherry continues to impress.  The sophomore captain out of Oakland, California is averaging 17 points and a Big Sky best 3.3 steals per game in just his first season starting at the point guard position.  Meanwhile Qvale continues to look like the best post in the conference averaging 14.6 points and 8 boards a contest.





Grizzlies Advance to Semifinals

8 03 2010

March 6, 2010

Last night was a change in shooting scenery (I’d like to remind you that I use this term in relation to video cameras, not guns).  I had the opportunity to film the Montana Grizzlies Big Sky Tournament quarterfinal game against Northern Arizona.

First off, it was such a nice change in athleticism, as it’s much easier to shoot higher levels of basketball because the game is played much more fluid.  The play develops properly and thus it’s easier to follow the action within it.  Secondly, it was a pleasant change to be able to shoot the entirety of a game and not just pieces of it.  It’s easier to tell the story of a game with just a short highlight sequence when you’re able to see the whole game.  Thirdly, it was the largest magnitude of a basketball game I’ve shot as it was collegiate playoff action.  Finally, it was great because for the third time this season we kicked the crap out of NAU, winning 81-60.

The game was well in hand the whole way as Montana took an early double digit lead and never looked back.  Although Anthony Johnson was by-far the most prolific scorer in the game, registering 22 points on 8 of 12 shooting, the team was firing on all cylinders.  Freshman guard Will Cherry was just one board shy of a double-double with 11 points and 9 rebounds.  Raason Young hit double digits as well, dropping in 11 points after shooting 5-8 from the field.

Editing the highlights for the Griz games is always way more enjoyable.  A) Because there are always way more plays worthy of making the highlight sequence than in high school ball and B) because I get a full minute of highlights to show, making the process less restricting and allowing me to get in nearly every bucket I deem important and/or thrilling.

Following the victory, the Griz will face off against Northern Colorado on Tuesday, March 9th, in a Big Sky Tournament semifinal game.





‘Tis the Season

27 02 2010

February 26, 2010

Well today was a feast of high school basketball… and a good amount of driving.  I covered four games at the Class A Divisional tournament in Hamilton.  I got to the station at about noon to pick up a camera and head out to catch the second half of the 12:30 semifinal game.  However, when I got to the station I saw that we were completely out of cameras (I problem that’s been occurring more and more).

At first I tried coordinating a camera switch with Kevin, who was already shooting a court story in Hamilton, but as he was running low on batteries, I elected to just wait 15 minutes for Christian to get back with his.  Sure enough I didn’t have to wait long for his return and I snatched his small camera (an annoyance for shooting sports… on the bright side keeping a steady shot with small cameras has been strengthening my left tricep) and headed out.

I got to the gym at halftime of the boys semifinal game between the Dillon Beavers and the Hamilton Broncs.  Unfortunately for the hometown Broncs, they had no chance at victory against the superior Dillon squad.  Hamilton shot a dismal 18% from the field, as it seemed they were trying to score five points every possession they had the ball.  Needless to say they were unsuccessful in their hurried efforts and turned the ball over 21 times in the contest.  Embarrassingly enough, the mercy rule clock (where the clock runs continuously if one team is ahead by 40 or more points) had to be kicked into action during the final minute of play.  In fact, a Broncs player couldn’t even get his second free throw off in time when the buzzer sounded to spell a 64-23 Beavers win.

Following that game, I stayed for the first quarter and change of a semifinal matchup in the girls bracket between the Anaconda Lady Copperheads  and Frenchtown.  Anaconda looked head and shoulders above the Lady Broncs right out of the gate as they jumped out to a 35-9 lead before halftime could pause the massacre.  I had to leave at that point to head back to the station and make my edits for the 6:00, but Anaconda went on to handle Frenchtown by a final of 64-38.

Three and a half hours, two highlight sequences, and 94 miles later:  I walk back into Dale Berry court for more Hamilton-hosted basketball.  This time I get to cover an entire game as I’m in time for tip-off of the semifinal between the Stevensville Yellowjackets and the Corvallis Blue Devils.  This game was one of the highest intensity contests I’ve ever covered as it was clear that the two teams were not fond of each other.  Considering the geographical separation of just 14 miles, it was easy to understand the rivalry vibe these teams were emitting on the hardwood.  Both teams love to run up and down the court and certain segments of the game felt more like a hockey game.  And, like many rivalry games, the intensity and nerves caused for general ineptness in offensive execution.  The teams went into the locker rooms tied at 21 for halftime.  However, Corvallis had a stroke of offensive efficiency in the third quarter where they outscored the Yellowjackets 14-6 to take control of the game.  The Blue Devils went on to win the game 47-37.  That outcome pits the Blue Devils (14-5) against Dillon (16-3) for the divisional championship tomorrow night.

The nightcap contest for my hoops-frenzied day was a girls semifinal matchup between Stevensville and Dillon.  Both teams struggled to score in the contest as the game remained in single digits until the second quarter.  I had to leave before halftime to get back to Missoula and make edits for the 10:00 news, but Stevensville ended up with the low-scoring victory 36-30 over Dillon.  That puts the Lady Jackets (11-9) into the Championship game vs. Anaconda (15-4) tomorrow night.

12 hours after arriving to the station… I went home.  Gotta love the high school basketball playoff time of year!





Unexpected Barn-Burner

18 02 2010

February 17, 2010

It’s normally fitting to expect a 3-seed and a 6-seed to play each other fairly tightly.  However, this was not something I was expecting when I walked into a Districts quarterfinal match between the 2-16 Superior Bobcats and the 13-5 Missoula Valley Christian Eagles in Hamilton, Montana.  I’d explain my reasoning but my argument was well-stated when I mentioned the teams’ records just now.

The game started out exactly as I pictured, as the Eagles jumped out to a quick 22-6 lead.  However, the Bobcats began to scratch and claw the lead away during the second quarter.  The lucky bounces seemed to be blessed upon the Bobcats tonight as they were able to cash in on many second chance points while out-rebounding their opponent 43-24.  In fact, Superior was able to pull within 6 points at 25-19 before vacating the court for halftime.

The second half of action, and particularly the final quarter, was as close as any basketball fan can hope for.  Nearly every basket down the stretch caused a tie or lead change.  Every possession become more and more precious and every second gone made the mood more and more tense.

In the final climactic moments of the matchup, Superior in-bounded with just 20 seconds to go, down by two points.  Eric Steinebach, who had just hit a pivotal three moments earlier to give Superior a lead, threw up an awkward jumper that didn’t fall.  Teammate Ryan Bowers, who finished the game with 16 rebounds, grabbed the offensive board and converted the layup to tie the game up at 47 with just 12 seconds to go.

However just one quick breath later, Valley Christian’s Andrew Schmautz gets fouled while receiving the inbounds pass… taking him to the charity stripe for two attempts.  With ice in his veins, Schmautz drilled both his shots to put the Eagles on top 49-47.  The Bobcats were unable to even get a desperation shot off, turning the ball over out of bounds as they raced down the court.

A Bobcats squad that had suffered such an unimpressive season had been just one play away from making a very impressive upset… however at the end of the night the final score had to label a gutsy and heart-broken Superior team as the contest’s inferior team, as is the only duty a scoreboard knows.   The Bobcats can surely expect greener pastures in future seasons as they move forward.

As for Valley Christian, they are still puffing sighs of relief over their near-loss on the court today.  Short-term memory is a must for the Eagles however, as they will face an extremely talented 17-1 Florence Falcons squad in tomorrow night’s semifinal.