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Battlin Bout of Boisterous Basketball with the Bronc’s Bombers

January 22, 2013
Northwest Montana A Conference


Battlin Bout of Boisterous Basketball with the Bronc’s Bombers


by John Heglie


This Tuesday the Frenchtown Lady Broncs (3-2 conference, 8-4 overall) visit the Polson Lady Pirates (2-1 conference, 3-7 overall) for a showdown  that holds conference standing ramifications for second place stratification in the Northwestern A.   Both teams were picked to contend for second place by early season prognosticators.  In this second round encounter they will duke it out to either gain further separation from the other or sow further uncertainty about who has the upper hand upon whom.   The first encounter between both teams in Frenchtown  was a fairly close affair with Polson holding a six point lead at intermission.  That lead reversing its loyalties by an equal amount to tilt the advantage to the host team by the end of the game. 

In an attempt to stimulate greater appeal of a game that is anticipated to be a competitive match, a brief preview of both teams will be embarked upon to enhance viewer appreciation.


The Frenchtown girls basketball team are laced with multi-sport athletes representing a wide array of athletic endeavors  -  soccer, volleyball, track & field as well as softball being among the various involvements of several during other seasons. The program has experienced an ascending level of success as reflected by a pair of recent  graduates who are extending their athletic careers at the collegiate level: Sarah Lester, now playing for Minot State, and Emma Oostdyk, part of the UM Western basketball program. 


A key Lady Bronc player with plenty of buck to her hooves is volleyball all-conference 2nd-team as well as basketball all-conference 1st-team junior 6-0 post Vanessa Stavish.  Stavish is a leading netter of deuces in the conference, not surprising considering her slight height advantage over other talls throughout the NWA, her reach also lending itself toward being proficient at reeling in rebounds as well.  But what is becoming increasingly disconcerting for opponents is the expansion of her shooting repertoire that now includes launching triples from beyond the arc, a category in which she has already converted a dozen from long range at this juncture of the season.  Clearly, packing people within the paint to deflect Stavish away from close proximity to the basket only yield limited results.  Her career high has been 32 in an overtime loss to the Anaconda Lady Copperheads before the Christmas break and she has turned in a quintet of twenty-some scoring outings thus far.   Stavish has already breached the 200 point threshold in scoring this season.


With the departure of the six-footer Lester from the roster of last season, the vacancy created by her absence has been aptly filled by the proficient play around the paint by senior 5-9 forward/post Larissa Berg, who has credentials among the TOP TEN stats of the Northwestern A in scoring deuces as well as for rebounding.  Berg can send a chill into defenders when she gets into the groove, having turned in a trio of double figure scoring outings thus far with a season high of 20 points.  Her presence in the post provides the Lady Broncs with another option for jostling and bumping opponents around down low as well as for picking up putback points.


All-conference 2nd-team senior 5-8 forward Holly Jacobs, an all-conference sweeper during soccer season as well as a softball 2nd-team outfielder, demonstrated long distance shooting capability last season with TOP TEN representation in that category.  She seems to have diversified her game portfolio this season, as some of her fortes that have emerged at this juncture of the current schedule have broadened to include one of the higher free-throw percentages, rebounding, steals and assists.  Jacobs is also ranked among of the TOP TEN for individual points scored. 


All-conference honorable mention senior 5-8 guard Abby Indreland, a thrice decorated all-state, thrice all-conference 1st-team pitcher in softball,  is ranked among the conference leaders this season for launching triples from long distance behind-the-arc.  This deep threat capability should come as little surprise since her proficiency at guiding a much smaller ball within the parameters of a narrow strike zone in softball is readily transferable toward netting a roundball into a larger hole at the base of a backboard during the winter months.  Indreland is also a lower eschalon contributor of steals and assists among the TOP TEN of the NWA as well.


All-conference 1st-team junior 5-6 guard Kayla Blood is the most perturbing  pilferer of basketballs in the conference.  Blood is so proficient at pinching possessions that she will pick off her 200th varsity career steal when Frenchtown faces Polson irregardless of whether she has a slow night or not.  Such numbers would be the envy of any player at the end of a productive prep career, but this boisterous Bronc is only half way through her junior year.  When it comes to ball handling, the Lady Pirates will want to keep their travels up the hardwood under lock & key when klepto-capable Kayla is prowling the floor, lest their prized possessions get lifted and end up in other hands.  Aside from having decent capability at dialing the operator long distance from beyond the arc, Blood also has TOP TEN credentials for blocking shots as well as for dishing out assists to teammates. 


Other contributors to the Lady Bronc team effort include senior Missoula Loyola transfer 5-7 forward Kenzie Reid, sophomore 5-6 guard Haley Cyr, junior 5-3 guard Shaela Wallen, junior 5-11 forward Keegan Wickman and sophomore 5-7 forward Lacey Hochhalter.  Several have already tallied dozens of points that have bolstered the Frenchtown scoring coffers this season.  All have scored in one game or another where they have seen floor time.



The 2012-13 rendition of the Polson Lady Pirates is likewise infused with several multi-sport athletes much like their new NWA Conference rival.  Multiple all-conference accolade recipient (T&F pv 11, 2x VB - 2nd-tm 12, hm 11, GBB hm 11-12) senior 5-4 guard Mackenzie Banner is a superb ball handler with TOP TEN statistical credentials for shooting treys and dishing assists.   Banner is also a tough defender on account of a background stemming from participation in equine cutting competition, which has sharpened her eye for reading subtle physiological clues and body English nuances which an opponent unwittingly conveys about which direction they intend to go.      


Dual sport all-state (VB, SB) multiple all-conference (2x VB - 1st-tm 12, hm 11; 2x SB  1st-tm; GBB 2nd-tm 11-12) senior 5-8 forward/post Heidi Rausch is the most prolific scorer as well as rebounder for the Lady Pirates.  Rausch has TOP TEN conference credentials for scoring deuces, blocking shots and pilfering steals.  is tantamount to a basketball embodiment of the allusion behind the movie entitled The Postman Always Rings Twice, for when she brings her package to the vicinity of the basket, she keeps pounding away as many times as might be necessary until it get delivered.


Multiple time all-state (T&F - 3x  sprint, 2x relay; 2x GOLF) multiple all-conference accolade recipient (T&F - 3x  sprints, 3x relay; 3x GOLF; GBB hm 11-12) senior 5-5 guard Anna DiGiallonardo is the speedster on the Lady Pirate roster.  DiGiallonardo has a particular penchant for pilfering the prized possessions of opponents by relieving them of their burden when she absconds with them to the other end of the floor, lending to the abbreviated nickname “Anna D” on account of her defense.  She is currently situated second in the conference for steals right behind Frenchtown’s Kayla Blood.  Anna D is just coming off an unconventional double-double by one scoring account in which she tallied ten steals to go along with her dozen points.  She is also proficient at blocking shots, dishing out assists, scoring deuces and free-throw shooting. 


Dual all-conference designee (2x SB 1st-tm - of 12, ut 11) junior 5-9 forward Jessica Bagnell has periodically emerged among the NWA Conference TOP TEN over the past pair of seasons for blocking shots or for dishing assists.  Her scoring has also been picking up as of late. 


Junior 5-11 post Hallie Hovenkotter (XC all-conf, B2B NWA Divisional Champion team member) has been periodically represented among the rungs of the NWA TOP TEN ladder for rebounding, but she has been a consistence presence for blocking the shot attempts of opponents.


Junior 5-3 reserve guard Malia Hamel has NWA TOP TEN credentials for dialing the operator long distance when she completes a call from beyond the arc and for free-throw shooting.  But Hamel is also a pretty formidable thief of basketballs as well as proficient at dishing out assists.


A pair of recent initiates to the rungs of the NWA stat aristocracy ladder include junior 5-10 post Monika Frame and junior 5-8 guard/forward Tegan Bauer (XC 2x all-state, 3x all conf), both of whom gained representation among the TOP TEN for blocking shots at the midpoint of this season.  Bauer recently turned in her first double figure scoring outing, while Frame has been reeling in an increasing number of rebounds as well as occasionally netting a putback.  Both can understandably be misconstrued as diabolical with their deft defense and disruptive deflections.


Other contributors to the Lady Pirate team effort include junior 5-6 guard/forward Jaylin Kenney (GOLF - 2x  all-state, 3x all-conf; SB all-conf 2nd-tm), junior 5-10 post Breanna Harrison and freshman 5-10 forward/post Nicole Lake


Entering the Frenchtown at Polson encounter, both teams are coming off a split this past week.  The Lady Broncs triumphed over the AA Missoula Big Sky Lady Eagles at home, but lost a conference clash with the Columbia Falls WildKats on their own turf.  The Lady Pirates enter the contest with a close road loss to AA Kalispell Flathead Bravettes, a game in which they held  the lead for three quarters, and a convincing win over conference rival Whitefish.  The Whitefish game was by far the best offensive performance of the season for Polson with 20s being scored in both of the opening quarters, a momentum builder which the Lady Pirates hope to carry over  into the Frenchtown contest.   Frenchtown has demonstrated that it too can score in the 20s in some its more impressive wins, but the Lady Broncs have not tallied back-to-back quarters with those kinds of numbers.  The loss by Frenchtown to Columbia Falls was their second shortfall against the conference leading Kats.  Polson has yet to play the WildKats until the first and third weeks of February.


Both teams average double figure steals per contest.  Frenchtown holds the edge with a lead of a handful.  That statistic alone suggests that the defense initiated by both teams will be stout, perhaps more so since both teams have the two top thieves of basketballs on their rosters.  Both will want to batten down the hatches with their ball handling against the other if they want to be successful about bringing the ball up the court.

The Lady Broncs have been averaging close to 56 points per game, whereas the Lady Pirate season average would fall significantly short of that figure.  However, such a comparison can be misleading, for if one compares recent team performance over just the last four games, the discrepancy shrinks to within just a couple of baskets.  Factor in home court advantage, and one would anticipate that discrepancy would tighten even further.  Those comparisons would suggest that the contest between the two teams could very well hinge upon how one or the other handles a couple of key possessions at crucial junctures of the game. 


One could speculate this way or that merely based upon analysis of statistical trends and performance orientations.  But the reason teams play one another in actuality on the hardwood court rather than rely on merely crunching the numbers is because real life often deviates from expectation and sometimes even produces an unanticipated result.  Thus shall we await the girls themselves on both teams to sort out who will triumph victorious and who will temporarily hold the bragging rights over the other - that is, until they meet again.    

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