Baker earns MVP, leads Montana to title


Senior Katie Baker scored 16 points to earn MVP honors and Montana shot 47.3 percent in its 71-48 victory over Tennessee State Saturday at Dahlberg Arena on the final night of the 32nd Lady Griz Classic.

Though no team champion was declared, Montana went 2-0 in the tournament and extended its Lady Griz Classic winning streak to 26 games.

Baker averaged 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds while shooting 56.0 percent in Montana’s two tournament wins to earn Lady Griz Classic MVP honors for the second straight year.

Senior Kenzie De Boer, who averaged 10.0 points and 3.0 rebounds, joined Baker on the all-tournament team, as did Tennessee State’s Kesi Hess and Simone Hopes and Idaho’s Alyssa Charlston.

The Lady Tigers entered the game limiting their opponents to 57.0 points per game on 34.2 percent shooting, but the Lady Griz held their ground against TSU’s in-your-jersey man-to-man defense.

Montana shot 42.9 percent in the opening half to take a 34-26 lead into the locker room, then shot 51.9 percent in the second half to steadily pull away.

“I’m pretty pleased. This was a good night for us and just a really good win,” UM coach Robin Selvig said.

“I was really impressed with them defensively, and I think everybody that has played them this season has been. They’ve played some good people, and they don’t give up many points.

“I was really worried if we could handle their pressure. They got some turnovers, some that were costly, but not many. We were strong enough, and we passed the ball well.”

Baker hit a pair of jumpers in the opening minute, and Montana never trailed in the game. The UM starters built a 14-8 lead through the first six minutes, and the reserves coming off the bench made sure it stuck.

That group of five — senior Ali Hurley and four underclassmen — scored 14 first-half points, and freshman Shanae Gilham, who hit all three of her first-half shots, including a pair of threes, led the team at the break with eight.

“We’re basically 10 deep right now,” Selvig said. “Shanae came off the bench in the first half and gave us a huge lift by making some shots.

“Ali played really well tonight and scored some points, and though she didn’t make the shots she has been making, (sophomore) Kellie (Cole) played well too.”

Like she did to start the game, Baker got Montana going early in the second half as well. She hit a pair of shots in the opening two minutes, and her jumper at the 14:49 mark gave the Lady Griz a 43-31 lead.

It was another impressive second-half showing for Baker, who hit five of her six second-half shots two nights after going 5 for 5 in the second half against Idaho.

Gilham hit her third triple of the game to extend the lead to 46-32, and interior baskets by Hurley and sophomore Carly Selvig made it 50-32. Playing its second game in two nights, Tennessee State was done challenging.

The lead twice reached a game-high 26 points in the second half. “We were just the stronger team,” Selvig said. “We finished stronger.”

Baker, with 16, and Gilham, with 13, were the only players in double figures, but Montana got scoring from eight other players and finished the game with a 30-13 advantage in bench points.

Montana’s 71 points were the most allowed by Tennessee State this season.

Selvig had four points, four blocks, three steals and two assists in just 15 minutes, and after getting adjusted to Tennessee State’s pressure, junior Torry Hill had a career-high seven assists for the second straight game.

“I thought Torry played really well,” Selvig said. “She had a few turnovers while she was getting used to their quickness, but for the most part she made good decisions.”

Montana, which had a 41-29 rebounding advantage, turned the ball over 15 times, more than twice as many as the seven in Thursday’s 76-65 victory over Idaho, but the Lady Tigers only converted those turnovers into 13 points. The Lady Griz turned TSU’s 17 turnovers into 23 points.

Hopes, who had 16 points in TSU’s 69-64 victory over Idaho on Friday night, had 13 Saturday to go along with six rebounds.

Montana will face an even sterner test Thursday when the Lady Griz host Wyoming at 7 p.m. at Dahlberg Arena. The Cowgirls, who beat Eastern Michigan Saturday afternoon and don’t play again until Thursday, are 5-1 and holding their opponents to 55.3 points per game on 33.8 percent shooting.

Montana Sports Information  —