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December 6, 2012
Northwest Montana A Conference


2012-13 Preseason Girls Basketball Preview:

Northwestern A Polson Lady Pirates

by John Heglie



An abridged printed extract of the Lady Pirate varsity roster player profiles segment of this article is featured by Leader Sports Editor Jaren Haser in the Thursday, 29 November 2012 issue of the Lake County Leader entitled: “POLSON GIRLS BASKETBALL PREVIEW: Lady Pirates Set to Bombard the Net this Season - Rausch, Banner, DiGiallonardo Highlight Solid 2012-13 Varsity Lineup,” Lake County Leader (Th. 29 Nov 2012) B2, 9.

The unabridged article in its entirety is also featured online at the Lake County Leader website <www.leaderadvertiser.com >.




Last season the Polson Lady Pirates  (6-2 conference, 16-7 overall) opened their schedule the mirror opposite of the preceeding year with a 3-0 start, sweeping their pair of games against tough SWA competition at the Tip-Off Tournament, then rallying to force overtime and eventual victory over Bitterroot foe Hamilton.  The encouraging start seemed to validate early season prognostications which picked Polson as an early season favorite.  However, little time was left to bask in any limelight as they would soon sustain their first loss just before the Christmas break against recently added NWA rival Frenchtown, a team that would eventually reign at the number one ranking among Class A teams for a few weeks before dipping no lower than third in the Power Polls later on in the season.  Shortly after the break Polson would engineer another narrow overtime escape in a road game against Columbia Falls, rallying once again to force an extra period, then squeezing out of town with a slim two point victory only after Wildkat Ciera Finberg‘s final shot dribbled off the front of the rim as time expired.   Polson would fare quite well against the remainder of their scheduled competition, succumbing only to AA Kalispell Flathead, the ranked Stevensville Lady Yellowjackets as well as a subsequent St. Valentines Day loss at home against eventual NWA conference crown winner Frenchtown.  The Lady Pirates would initially receive a 5th place recognition among the rankings of the Class A Power Poll, rising to assume 4th place prior to the inauguration of the postseason.


At divisional, the second-seeded Lady Pirates had to face a very talented Columbia Falls team once again on their home court since they were hosting the tournament, only this time they exercised a little more care to maintain some breathing room to qualify for the championship. Against top-seeded Frenchtown, the Lady Pirates kept themselves within striking distance as the contest drew to a close with a couple of opportunities to tie the game.  Down by a pair of points with just over a minute remaining, Mariah Hamel stole the ball and was streaking up the court in what looked like a play that would forge a tie when she was instead whistled for her fifth foul.  A split of the awarded free-throws would extend the Lady Bronc lead to three.  Polson carefully worked the ball around with time waning in the contest.  Their final shot was a good one from behind the arc that would have knotted the score at 38 apiece with mere ticks on the clock remaining, but it clanked off the front of the rim, forcing the Lady Pirates to foul the rebounder,  who would sink both her free throws for a 40-35 Lady Bronc victory.  Nevertheless, Polson would punch its ticket to State as the 2nd-seed out of the Northwest.


At State, the Lady Pirates would reengage Tip-Off Tournament foe Dillon, who were forced into launching long-range attempts from beyond the arc against the tightly packed Lady Pirate defense around the basket.  Unfortunately for Polson, Lady Beaver shooting would be atypically accurate in excess of a 40th percentile conversion rate,  a success ratio which proved instrumental in relegating Polson to the consolation bracket after the first round.  Their next opponent would be top-seeded Central A Havre, another opponent who managed to convert triples at an unprecedented rate above the 40th percentile.  However, Polson was able to counter the long-range shooting success of their opponent by means of their own shooting prowess that tickled the 50th percentile, emerging this time with a narrow two point victory.  Their reward for victory was a head-on clash with the speeding Lady Locomotives of top-seeded Eastern A Laurel, the third team the Lady Pirates would face in the tournament who would dial the operator long distance from beyond the arc and complete their calls for treys in excess of the 40th percentile.  Laurel would never trail in this final contest between two schools with a shared color scheme of Purple & Gold, scoring early and often to secure a significant lead that the Lady Pirates found themselves too far back to make up the distance. 

The three teams Polson faced dropped a combined 21 triples on them from beyond the arc, all three teams shooting above the 40th percentile.  Uncanny!   Only Belgrade, which ultimately placed third at the tournament, shot an equal amount of treys against their opponents, but it took them four games to attain that number. While the conclusion was disappointing for the Purple & Gold team from the Northwest, the game they won at State had been the first for Polson in almost a decade or more.




The 2012-13 rendition of the Lady Pirates will be challenged to adjust to the loss of a quartet of players who graduated from their roster:

The biggest vacancy stemming from graduation is left by the departure of volleyball all-state, two-time all-conference (1st-tm 11, 2nd-tm 10); softball thrice all-conference (2nd-tm 12, 1st-tm 09/10); and basketball twice all-state, thrice all-conference (1st-tm 11-12/10-11, 2nd-tm 09-10), PHS Offensive MVP as well as Tiffany “Tigger“ Duford Spirit Award recipient (conferred by fellow PHS teammates in 2010-11for display of character, leadership and inspiration)  5-10 post Riley Kenney, who had contributed over 200 points the previous pair of seasons leading up to last, doubling that figure over the course of her senior campaign.    She likewise exceeded century club membership for rebounding during her last three seasons.  Over the course of her prep basketball career, Kenney tallied 52 double figure scoring outings (0+13+16+23), ripped down double-digit rebounds in 22 contests (0+6+6+10) while posting 20 prep career double-doubles (0+5+5+10).  It goes without saying that Kenney was a regular statistical presence among the upper eschalon of NWA Conference TOP TEN stratification in multiple categories over the course of multiple seasons.  Her career highs were 31 points on the road against the Columbia Falls WildKats in an overtime victory her senior year and a 30-point explosion on the road against AA Kalispell Flathead her junior year.    Defenders who opted to foul Kenney paid dearly when she made trips to the charity stripe, where she consistently drained 80th percentile accuracy with her free throw shooting.  Kenney scored her 1000th prep career point in about as dramatic a fashion as could have been imagined by the most creative of Hollywood screenwriters - in her last game at the state tournament on her last basket with mere seconds remaining on the clock on the very same court in front of some among the crowd who would have watched her own father score just over 1000 career points a couple of decades prior.  While she is not currently a participant in a collegiate basketball program, interest nevertheless has been expressed in utilizing some of her roundball prowess.   She scrimmaged with a couple of in-state college teams after graduating last year as well as engaged in a couple of phone conversations with Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig.  Currently attending the UM in pursuit of her undergrad degree, the door remains slightly ajar as to whether she may yet pound the hardwood once again wearing sneakers with basketball in hand.  Whether she does or not, local Purple & Gold fans wish this friendly as well as talented lass good fortune in her future, all the more so since she provided the local fan base here with loads of entertainment and lots to cheer about with her hardwood court scoring antics.  Her prep career (08-09 thru 11-12) stats tally at 1000 points (45+237+277+441), 571 rebounds (32+160+162+217), 21 blocks (3+2+3+13), 140 steals (7+30+46+57) and 49 assists (3+15+16+15).


Basketball two-time all-conference (1st-tm 11-12, hm 09-10) 5-5 point guard extraordinaire Mariah  Hamel blended some sweet ball handling skills with a heaping dose of savvy peripheral court vision.  She was a regular statistical presence among a pair of TOP TEN categories of the NWA conference for steals and assists  the past couple of seasons.  Hamel attained career century club membership for scoring deuces, rebounding, assists and steals.  Her delivery of the ball to teammates in an effort to create optimum scoring opportunities incurred the gratitude of Lady Pirate leading scorers, so much so that Riley Kenney herself would concede the attaining the career 1000 point scoring plateau would have been nie impossible without her contributions.  Hamel’s prep career (09-10 thru 11-12) numbers include 315 points (101+68+146), 123 rebounds (37+37+49), 5 blocks (1+2+2), 111 steals (37+32+42) and 140 assists (52+21*+67).                           * denotes some assist credits may have been mistakenly attributed to another player.


The Lady Pirates must also fare without tennis doubles all-state, two-time all-conference 5-5 reserve forward Jordan Quinn, whose skills featured a high percentage accuracy perimeter shot that would help loosen up tightly wrapped defenses packed about the rim.  Fans within earshot of the Polson bench were never quite sure as to whether what sounded like “SteelR” being shouted in Quinn’s direction from her coach on the sidelines referred  to a defensive instruction to “steal ’er”  as in swipe the ball from an opponent or a shout of encouragement referencing a favorite NFL team both of them share.  Quinn’s prep career (09-10 thru 11-12) stats tally at 51 points (0+12+39), 24 rebounds (0+5+19), 2 blocks (0+1+1), 11 steals (0+4+7) and 6 assists (0+1+5).


Track & Field all-conference pole vaulter (11) and volleyball defensive specialist  5-3 reserve guard Macall Banner added an extra dimension to the Lady Pirate backcourt with her ambidextrous ball-handling and long range shooting capability.   Banner closed out her senior year ranked 11th among the NWA conference elite for dialing the operator to place those long distance calls that connect with a trey from beyond-the-arc.  Her prep career (09-10 & 11-12) stats tally at 65 points (0+na+65), 50 rebounds (4+na+46),  30 steals (2+na+28) and 18 assists (1+na+17).


Basketball all-conference honorable-mention (09-10) 5-6 guard Nina Orozco-Charlo began the season as part of the Lady Pirate backcourt, but transferred to another school early on into the season.   She closed out her junior season ranked among the TOP TEN of the NWA Conference for behind-the-arc treys, blocking shots and assists, but was also a statistical presence the latter weeks for free-throw shooting proficiency.  She was also ranked among the TOP TEN her sophomore season for steals.  Her prep numbers spanning both her career (08-09 thru 11-12) with Ronan as well as Polson tally at 279 points (27+140+101+11), 109 rebounds (11+57+37+4), 8 blocks (0+4+3+1), 91 steals (15+39+33+4) and 53 assists (7+15+30+1).


While the vacancies created by the changeover from last year’s team will require some adaptations and adjustments to the Polson roster, the Lady Pirates should be more than competitive with those they return supplemented by a transfer and the maturation process of skill acquisition among younger talents.





Track & field all-conference pole vaulter (11); volleyball two-time all-conference (2nd-tm 12, hm 11) and basketball all-conference honorable mention senior 5-4 guard Mackenzie “Bodacious” Banner has been a regular presence among the NWA conference statistical categories for the past pair of seasons.   She has posted TOP TEN credentials for netting triples as well as dishing assists, with TOP TWENTY stratification for steals and rebounding.  Banner has likewise demonstrated a sharp eye at the free-throw line from time to time, her most memorable outing being a perfect 8-for-8 on the road against AA Kalispell Flathead her sophomore season. Mackenzie has turned in a handful of career double-figure scoring outings, although her defensive capabilities and ball handling skills have been her strongest contributions to the team effort in prior seasons.  A background in equine cutting competition has cultivated an innate ability to read subtle physiological clues and body English betrayals of ball handler intentions which aid anticipation of what an opposing player is liable to do or where a ball is likely to bounce.      The almost 700 career regular schedule plus postseason game (not including tournament tallies) defensive digs she accrued over the course of two seasons in volleyball bely that Banner isn’t reticent about diving to the deck in pursuit of loose balls or tying up opponents when contesting an unsecured rebound.


Volleyball all-state, two-time all-conference (1st-tm 12, hm 11), softball all-state, twice all-conference 1st-team and basketball all-conference 2nd-team,  PHS Defensive MVP (11-12) as well as Tiffany “Tigger“ Duford Spirit Award recipient senior 5-8 forward/post Heidi “Rumblin” Rausch tends to be a force to be reckoned with irregardless of the sport she participates in. The over six dozen career solo blocks at the net in volleyball indicate that her defensive capabilities tend to be a nightmarish nemesis for opposing players attempting to penetrate the paint for a less obstructed look at the basket.  Rausch was cut little slack by her two-time all-conference siblings just because she was of the feminine gender when she wanted to scrimmage with them playing basketball at an earlier stage of her roundball skill development.  Consequently, there is little that she hasn’t already faced in terms of physicality or defensive alignments that she hasn‘t already become somewhat adept at breaking down.  If opponents should find themselves victimized by an unanticipated maneuver implemented by Heidi, it wouldn’t be the first time that an opponent got burned by a Rausch. 


Track thrice all-state, thrice all-conference sprinter plus two-time all-state, three-time all-conference relay-runner; golf twice all-state, thrice all-conference  and basketball all-conference honorable mention senior  5-5 guard Anna DiGiallonardo is a speedster on the roster who is capable to turning on the afterburners either to intercept an opposing ball handler’s package or zip by a defender on her way to score a basket.  Often merely called “Anna D” as a double entendre abbreviation of her surname simultaneously acknowledging her defensive prowess, she was a regular presence among the TOP TEN of the NWA conference last season for converting treys as well as deuces, combined field-goal percentage, total points and assists.  Because her surname has been subjected to a myriad of mispronunciations, misspellings and butcherings by various media over the years, it would seem apropos to assign some associations for each of the letters in an effort to facilitating greater accuracy with regard to her familial name.  The dual D’s denote her debilitating defense as well as disruptive deflections.  A pair of I’s imply intercept speed and intuitive instincts.  The big G points to plenty of gumption, like when she iced a clutch jumper on the road last season against Columbia Falls in the waning seconds of regulation to send the game into overtime.  The A’s apply to acceleration as well as aptitude for anticipation.  The O’s outline offensive output as well as opportunistic outside shooting from the perimeter.  The neighboring N notifies about the quality of many of her jump shots that hit “nothin-but-net” and the remaining R refers to rebounding resourcefulness.  Finally, the twin L’s could be construed a couple of different ways, but best exemplify the difficulties that Anna puts opposing ball handlers through to the extent that they feel like they’ve run the gauntlet through the equivalent of basketball H - E - double hash marks (crossword folk - a four letter word referring to an underworld place) for 32 minutes after she has hounded them up and down the court all night.  While this attempt might not guarantee that Anna’s surname doesn’t continue to be misconstrued, perhaps such associations will assist in ensuring that at least most of the necessary letters will be accounted for in one way or another. 



Softball two-time all-conference 1st-team (of 12, ut 11) junior 5-9 forward Jessica Bagnell showcased some of her capabilities spelling starters in a reserve capacity her freshman season when she climbed among the rungs of the NWA Conference TOP TEN for blocking shots.  Her offensive productivity has been steadily progressing based upon the multiple double figure scoring outings she turned in at the junior varsity level last season.  Bagnell’s basketball repertoire benefited from scrimmaging under the tutelage of her two multiple accolade decorated brothers, one of whom is currently pitching for the Oklahoma State baseball team and the other who starts at quarterback for the University of Mary Marauders of Bismarck, North Dakota.  The horse sense Jess displays on the court could also be attributed to spending time with some of the four-legged teammates her elder sister practices with preparing for the rodeo circuit. 


Junior 5-10 post Monika Frame was developing into a valuable rebounder toward the end of last season whose defense within the perimeter would also disrupt the would-be penetration intentions of ball handlers.  On the offensive side of the spectrum, Monika has been honing techniques for maneuvering her own frame around defenders to create less obstructed access to the basket where her shooting touch can net additional points for her team


All-conference, back-to-back NWA divisional champion cross-country runner and tennis ball bashing junior 5-11 post Hallie “Double H” Hovenkotter relishes anytime one can engage in a good game of basketball.  Her development as a player has been progressing well to such an extent that she was reeling in rebounds as well as netting putbacks with the reserve minutes she subbed on the court in relief of others last season.  The XC moniker derived from the initials of her name may likewise carry a double entendre for some hefty hootspa she injects into team dynamics as well as her hustling harrassment of shooters when her reach forces alterations in the trajectory of their shots.


Junior 5-3 guard Malia “Shnookums” Hamel may have acquired her nickname in part because of her penchant for snookering taller players out of strategic ball possessions when she wades into traffic congestion and emerges from a pileup with the ball in her hands.


Cross-country two-time all-state, thrice all-conference junior 5-8 guard/forward Tegan “Teegs” Bauer has displayed broad all-around capability in that her contributions in frosh/JV contests often ran the gamut among the stat categories when she would score points, rip rebounds, dish assists, swipe steals as well as snuff a shot with an occasional block now and then.  Bauer could emerge as a more significant contributor for the Lady Pirates this season should she be able to access strands of nascent basketball capability lurking within her genetic makeup.  Both parents have played competitive athletics.  Her mother was an instrumental component of Havre’s first state basketball championship squad, going on to extend her athletic career to subsequent levels where she became an All-American standout at Northwestern University, coached at the collegiate level for a time and has now been recognized as a 2003 MHSA Hall of Fame inductee.  If only a smidge of such capabilities have been passed down to the next generation, opponents may find themselves teetering toward trepidation when they tangle with the tenacity of Teegs.


Twice all-state, thrice all-conference golfer and softball all-conference 2nd-team junior 5-6 guard/forward Jaylin Kenney has savvy court awareness when it comes to discerning when to jockey for strategic positioning, clog a lane to increase the chances of derailing advancement of the ball or dish an assist to an awaiting teammate.  Her fine motor coordination and soft stroke usually indicate that a high percentage shot is heading toward the rim if it has left her capable hands. 


Junior 5-10 post Breanna Harrison has been steadily improving at numerous facets of her game and those incremental improvements will be called upon to bear fruit that her team can harvest during the course of the season as it progresses. 


Freshman 5-10 forward/post Nicole Lake could provide a valuable supplement to the roster in relief of others with her advanced level of skill sets.  Her vision of the court could be partially attributed to all those potatoes she consumed over the years, which seem to have had an enhancing effect upon her own set of eyes for perceiving multiple facets of the game in motion.  This past summer, Lake placed 15th for nanny slamming (aka goat tying) at the 2012 National Junior High Rodeo Finals.  While rodeo and basketball are obviously different animals,  such an athletic achievement is indicative of transferable crossover skills which would prove beneficial for any basketball court, whereupon proficiency at diving to the deck to tackle critters that are elusive as well as the capability to tie up loose ends should prove to be invaluable assets when a loose ball is involved or a recoiling rebound is being contested.   In a similar vein, having raised rabbits when she was younger as part of the “Pistols & Ponytails” 4-H program, she should prove more adept than some at getting those bunnies to hop down the hole and into the basket when she is able to corral them running loose around the rim. 




Any of the following players could find themselves supplementing the varsity roster at various junctures of any given contest as the season progresses:


Included among the JV ranks are a handful of 2011 14U ASA state softball champions in  5-5 forward Sarah Rausch, 5-6 guard Skyla Krantz, 5-6 forward Taylor Brackey as well as 5-7 forward Kaelen Wall. 


Other multi-sport athletes who will now shift their focus from diving to the deck of the volleyball court for a dig to scrambling after loose balls on a basketball court will be  5-4 forward Dylan Quinn and 5-7 forward/post Taylor Rost.  


Rounding out the junior varsity squad will be golf all-state  5-9 sophomore forward/post Peyton Anderson.




A pair of incoming frosh bring with them state championship hardware credentials stemming from being part of the 2011 14U ASA state softball champion squad.  They include 5-5 guard Lydia Dupuis and 5-7 forward Erin Sampson.


Like their junior varsity counterparts, some incoming frosh who will be adapting their dives to the deck of a volleyball court in pursuit of a defensive dig for that of scrambling after loose balls on a basketball court will be 5-4 Marlee Congdon, 5-4 Hanna Potter, 5-7 Julia Sanderson, and 5-6 Liz Johnston.


Others who round out the frosh squad include 5-6 Macayla Crandall, 5-1 KylieRae Finley, 5-5 Calista Magpie, and 5-6 Micaela McCrea.


Team managers for this season will include football linemen juniors Joe Mullen and Cody Grant. Statistician and logistical support may be supplemented by others whose identities had not been confirmed by the time this article was released for public viewing.





Head coach Randy Kelley embarks upon his 6th season at the helm of the Lady Pirates, assisted by Brad Fisher and 2nd year frosh coach Jay Krantz.  Last year the Lady Pirates were able to get a good jump out of the blocks with a 3-0 start against nonconference competition, a vast improvement over the mirror opposite beginning from the season prior when their team more closely resembled a hospital ward for the walking wounded on account of the numerous injuries they were plagued with.  The current rendition of Team LP will face the same trio of inaugural competition on their present schedule, so the former will want to get down to business right away because it is almost certain the latter will be itching for some payback from last season.  The Lady Pirates have too much returning talent to classify this season as a rebuilding year.  However, because they have lost significant personell with the graduation of the leading scorer in the conference as well as their point guard extraordinaire who was the spoon that stirred the pot, neither can the new season be classified as a reloading year.  The proof in the pudding lies somewhere in the middle, whatever such a designation might happen to be which likely begins  with the  letter “r“ as its initial letter.  


The backcourt of the Lady Pirates remains stable given the caliber and seasoning of returning veterans.  Both Banner and DiGiallonardo return with all-conference accolade credentials, but the team will need to groom a less initiated supportive cast to spell them during the course of the game or fill in if either find themselves in foul trouble.  How seamlessly those players will be able to integrate into the flow of the game likely will be tested early into the season.  A returning Rausch with all-conference accolade credentials likewise provides the team with a formidable veteran player who provides both stability and seasoning at the forward/post position.  That trio provides a solid core around which to build a reconstituted team for the anticipated challenges that a fresh season will inevitably present. 


The question marks that remain to be answered would appear to be who can fill in for the mega-contributions left by the departure of Kenney at the forward/post position and who might be able to integrate into a comparable role of point guard which Hamel so skillfully executed over the course of three seasons?  The scoring chasm alone created by the graduation of that pair is vast,  so this year’s rendition of the Lady Pirates will need to fill in for vacancies that accounted for over half of the offensive productivity generated last year as well as replace personell responsible for pulling down over 300 rebounds.  The caliber of the departed leave some exceptionally large shoes to fill, shoes for which one is hard pressed to find occupants of equal capability on short notice.  Consequently, it is anticipated that returning players as well as an infusion of less seasoned supplemental reserves will need to collectively pick up some of the slack in scoring as well as rebounding.  Necessity is often the crucible for accelerated growth, so several players may find themselves inserted into circumstances providing them with an opportunity to shine in an expanded role that will be less than familiar at first.  


Another area that merits attention would appear to be the statistical category pertaining to steals.  Polson teams had led the conference in this defensive category a quartet of preceeding seasons, but last year they found themselves playing second fiddle in the orchestra to conference leader Frenchtown, who outpilfered the Pirates by over two dozen pinches by the end of the winter campaign.   It is anticipated that the Lady Broncs will be picking a lot of pockets once again this season, so it would be adviseable for the lady swashbucklers to close the gap in this category befitting a team that features a skallywag pirate for its mascot.    But keeping pace in the department of stolen vehicles isn’t the whole story, for the supreme value of the pinch when pilfered is when it can be redeemed at one’s own basket by translating it into points on the scoreboard in your favor.  


How might the Lady Pirates measure up this season in comparison with the other teams around the NWA Conference?  Making predictions at this end of the season when not a single game has yet to be played leans heavily on the speculative side of the scale, but Polson should be in the mix when vying for the upper rungs of the hierarchical ladder.  Both Whitefish and Libby can be anticipated to be improved with a season’s maturity under the belt of last year’s younger players.  The Lady Bulldogs return all-conference 2nd-team senior 5-7 forward Ashlee Brewer among others like the pair of crafty Craft siblings (Shannon & Simone) to build around.  The contributions of senior Melissa Poe should infuse the playmaking on the court with some additional poetry in motion and seasoned senior Lauren Cain will be more than able to help out the team on their quest to climb the rungs of the conference standings.  The Lady Loggers feature a forest full of athletic achievers who will assuredly tighten the disparity in scoring from last season who include senior Kaitlyn Gilder, juniors Taylor Quinn along with Brooke Rosling, a doublet of dynamic Ds in sophomores Dalyn Germany as well as Devon Gallagher, and a hailstorm from Haileys like sophomores Hailey Craig, Hailey Moe, along with Hannah England among others.

But the suspicion of this analysis leans more heavily toward anticipating that the biggest trouble will likely come from defending conference as well as divisional champion Frenchtown and divisional consolation champion Columbia Falls.   The Lady Broncs swept all of their encounters with the Lady Pirates last season.  The WildKats pushed Polson to the brink with an overtime matchup.  Even though the Lady Pirates prevailed in all three of their encounters with the Kats, each contest was a battle that wasn’t decided until the latter portion of the game.

The returning Lady Broncs will be plenty strong this season even without 6-0 graduate Sarah Lester in the mix, who is now playing for Minot State, or without another multi-sport athlete who is purported to be devoting her energies toward honing her athletic craft in another club team sport.  But even if a couple of folk from last year’s roster happen to be missing from the horse corral this season, the remaining returning personell are anticipated to be trouble enough to contend with.  One of them will be all-conference 1st-team junior Kayla Blood, who already has pilfered 135 (50+85) steals in two seasons.  Those are enviable prep career numbers and she is only at the halfway juncture of her prep basketball career!   Frightening. Then there is basketball all-conference 1st-team 6-0 junior Vanessa “The Vanquisher” Stavish, the remaining remnant of last year’s twin tower tormentors of trajectory.  A volleyball all-conference 2nd-team accolade recipient, Stavish tallied 110 blocks (64 BS, 46 BA) at the net her past two vb seasons.  Factor in the 14 basketball blocks from last year’s winter campaign and shooters who challenge her are contending with a veritable Lady Bronc blockinmaniac.   A pair of long-range Broncs bombers who can also spell trouble for other teams are all-conference accolade recipients Holly Jacobs (2nd-tm) and Abby Indreland (hm), sharp-shooters who can drain a trey just as adeptly as they fire a softball into other small spaces like the leather of an awaiting glove of a teammate or the narrow confines of a tight strike zone.

While the WildKats might not have a pair of twin towers like they did a few years ago with the six-foot-plus DeWit sisters, they will still have plenty of substantial height this season with  all-conference 2nd-team 5-11 junior Haley Belgarde, 5-10 junior Andrea Getts and 5-10 sophomore Winter Kemppainen hovering around the basket.  Added to this formidable mix will be a pair of Finbergs to contend with - one on the sideline directing traffic in the form of their coach Cary Finberg and another on the floor fulfilling the role of the spoon that stirs the pot in sophomore Ciera Finberg.   To add further insult to risk of injury is the danger of a barrage from a Burlage - two-time all-conference (2nd-tm 11-12/1st-tm 10-11) senior Hope or FT shooting whiz sophomore Summer, who both add further scoring punch along with their other associated skills.  So Polson is likely to find its hands full no matter which team they play within the conference.  Fortunately for the Lady Pirates, this season they have their own array of height to counter riches that have been predominantly enjoyed by other squads in the past.  The suspicion of this analysis is that whichever team gels earliest and establishes some measure of continuity in terms of rhythm among its players will have the inside track as to which of them rises to the top of the heap.


Glancing at the label on the box outlining the ingredients that will make up this year’s culinary mix of  Lady Pirates would seem suggestive of a recipe for a successful season.  For optimum flavor, the trick will be to achieve just the right blend of personell, strategy and performance levels that get Team LP cooking at just the right temperature so that they sizzle on the court without getting burned by the heat of competition.    


The basketball season for Polson opens for the Frosh with a contest against visiting Bigfork Vals on Tuesday, December 4th, while varsity action commences with the Tip-Off Tournament jointly hosted between Corvallis and Hamilton the weekend of December 7-8 with games against Dillon and Anaconda. 


stats courtesy of Terry Werner culled from nwmta <ihigh.com/nwmta> website archives

awards and other input provided courtesy of the girls basketball coaching staff




SUPPLEMENTARY NOTE TO READERS:   The philosophical approach undertaken behind these types of previews tends to follow a threefold orientation.   

First, players who have departed  from the previous season and their accomplishments tend to be understandably passed over due to space and time limitations.  It is felt that their contributions to the success of the previous season and the entertainment they provided for their fans merit greater recognition.   

Secondly, most presentations can only accommodate the higher profile players, whereas it is felt that since everybody who is on the roster of a TEAM sport contributes in multiple ways to the overall success of a season, something deserves to be mentioned about those other players as well.  Consequently, the attempt has been made to provide a little snippet about as many on the roster as possible in order to comment not only about some of  their capabilities, but  also provide a little glimpse into their personalities where possible.  

Finally, statistics have been integrated  into the presentation  not only because they are deemed interesting, but also because  they are likened to a type of report card and/or form of honor roll recognition for an athlete.  Stats seem to have fallen into disrepute in some circles with a greater orientation toward story, but it is felt that the blending of the two together paints a more comprehensive  picture than would be the case with the exclusion of one over the other.  

It is recognized that such an approach makes for a substantially longer article, but it is felt that the benefits outweigh the shortcomings.   It has come to this author’s attention on numerous occasions that prospective fans and former players tend to feel somewhat disconnected from prep teams after a brief time of absence due to unfamiliarity with a new generation of players.  Such disconnectedness tends to translate into a sense of reluctance to invest one’s emotional support as well as gets reflected by lower frequency of  attendance despite a relatively high level of interest on their part.  Thus, this more comprehensive approach is crafted in such a way with the view toward attempting to bridging some of that disconnectedness.  It is hoped that by providing mini-profiles of various players along with some background information that this will stimulate wider appeal for the players that will in turn help cultivate a wider viewing audience and fan base, if not generate new interested parties as well.  

For the benefit of those who may find reading so much material too cumbersome, section headings have been provided so one can negotiate past portions deemed of less importance to a reader in order to get to  those portions considered to be of greater interest.  





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