By JOEL CARLSON
Montana junior forward Kayleigh Valley, who leads the conference in scoring and has the Lady Griz off to a 3-1 start in league, is one of three players to make the initial gogriz.com Big Sky Conference women’s basketball MVP watch list.
The other players to make the cut are Eastern Washington senior guard Hayley Hodgins and Montana State senior forward Jasmine Hommes.
Valley, a two-time Big Sky Player of the Week this season and all-tournament selection at the Christmas City Classic and Lady Griz Classic, was averaging 17.8 points and 6.3 rebounds after Montana’s 11-game nonconference schedule.
She’s been even better since the start of league, averaging 27 points on 54.3 percent shooting and 8.8 rebounds through four Big Sky games.
Montana opened 3-0, with home wins over Northern Arizona and Southern Utah, and a road win at Portland State, before falling 83-75 in overtime on Saturday at Sacramento State.
Valley had a 27-point, 13-rebound double-double against Southern Utah and a 23-point, 14-rebound double-double Saturday against the Hornets, the first two of her career. She matched her career high with 29 points against both NAU and PSU.
She ranks second in the league in both field goal (.541) and free throw (.851) percentage.
Hodgins and Hommes both joined Valley on the preseason All-Big Sky Conference team.
Hommes, also a two-time Big Sky Player of the Week this season, has the Bobcats, 11-4 overall, atop the league standings at 4-0. Playing the same schedule as Montana, MSU avoided losing in The Nest last week with an 80-79 victory over the Hornets on Hannah Caudill’s 3-pointer with 6.7 seconds left.
Since being limited to five points on 1-of-9 shooting in Montana State’s blowout victory over Southern Utah to open league, Hommes has scored 22, 19 and 22 points as the Bobcats have extended their winning streak to five games.
Montana and Montana State host Northern Colorado and North Dakota this week.
Hodgins was first-team All-Big Sky last season, so her inclusion on the preseason All-Big Sky squad was a no-brainer. What wasn’t expected is that she would have the Eagles, picked ninth in the preseason coaches’ poll, unbeaten through two weekends of league games and 9-6 overall.
She led EWU to home wins over Northern Colorado and North Dakota by a tight total of seven points, then scored 16 points on Saturday as the Eagles traveled to Moscow and knocked off Idaho 74-66.
At 19.0 points, she is the Big Sky’s No. 2-ranked scorer behind Valley.
Eastern Washington plays at Southern Utah and Northern Arizona this week.
Other players to watch:
* Idaho sophomore forward Geraldine McCorkell: Averaging 14.0 points and 6.1 rebounds for the better-than-expected Vandals.
* Weber State senior guard Regina Okoye: Doing it all for the Wildcats, who were picked 10th in the preseason coaches’ poll.
* Montana senior guard McCalle Feller: Averaging 17.5 points and the Big Sky’s top 3-point threat at 2.8 makes per game.
* Sacramento State senior guard Adella Randle-El: Leads the Hornets in both scoring and steals, categories that define the team.
Montana Sports Information