Baker Named Big Sky Conference MVP


Katie Baker named league MVP. Photo by Austin Smith.

She wasn’t the Big Sky Conference’s top scorer or rebounder. She wasn’t the league’s top playmaker or defender. But she was the best player on the best team, and that still counts for something.

Montana senior Katie Baker, who led the Lady Griz to the 2013 Big Sky Conference regular-season championship, was named the league MVP Monday in voting by the Big Sky’s 11 head coaches.

Baker also was one of six players named first-team All-Big Sky, along with Lady Griz senior Kenzie De Boer. It was the second consecutive year Baker was a unanimous selection and her third straight year on the first team.

It marks the first time since Mandy Morales and Sonya Rogers in 2009 that Montana had a pair of first-team selections.

“I had a little bit of a dilemma coming down the stretch on which one I would nominate (for MVP), but that’s not a bad problem to have,” said UM coach Robin Selvig, who could only submit a single player for MVP consideration.

“With 11 teams in the league now and only six players making first team, it’s even more elite. Both of them had great senior years.”

Baker led Montana to its 23rd regular-season conference championship in 2013, its first since 2009. In doing so, she becomes the Lady Griz’ 13th Big Sky Conference MVP.

“Wow, I’m humbled and honored,” Baker said when told of the award Monday prior to Montana’s practice. “I was not expecting this. There are some outstanding players out there, not only in the rest of the conference but on our team as well.

“It’s been a blessing to be on this team. I don’t know if I could have gotten this far without my teammates and especially without my coaches.”

Baker’s senior year caps an exceptional four-year run that has her in the Montana top 10 in both career scoring (1,395) and rebounding (765), despite missing the final 14 games of her freshman season due to injury.

As a senior, she has averaged 13.6 points and 7.3 rebounds per game, averages that both rank sixth in the league, while shooting 42.5 percent. Her 55 blocks rank second in the Big Sky, and her 152 career rejections rank fifth in Lady Griz history.

“In a heck of a competitive conference, Katie had a great year,” Selvig said. “And she has also had a great career.”

With Montana returning five starters from last year’s team that finished fifth in the Big Sky Conference, someone had to make the leap from being a good player to being a great one if the Lady Griz were going to contend for their first regular-season championship in four years. That turned out to be De Boer.

The shooting guard entered her senior year as a career 34.5-percent shooter. As a senior she is shooting 42.2 percent overall, 37.5 percent from 3-point range. Those improvements have her leading the team in scoring (14.0/g) and have lifted her to 13th on the Montana career scoring list with 1,243 points going into this week’s Big Sky tournament.

“It’s an honor to be first team in such a great conference,” said De Boer, who was honorable-mention All-Big Sky as a junior. “It’s definitely an honor for both Katie and me.

“I worked hard in the offseason, and I think I had my best season this year. I stepped up more offensively. I was a more consistent scorer, and my 3-point shooting percentage went up.”

Unlike last season, when seniors on the first or second team were scarce, this year’s teams are lousy with them. Only two non-seniors were among the 11 players making up the first and second teams. Both made first team.

Northern Colorado junior D’shara Strange joined Baker as this year’s unanimous selections to the first team. Strange, who was also named Defensive Player of the Year for the second time for the second-place Bears, was a unanimous selection to the first team for the second consecutive season.

Northern Arizona senior Amy Patton was named first team for the first time after a career that concluded with 1,938 points, the fifth-highest total in Big Sky history. Also making first team was Sacramento State senior Kylie Kuhns, the Big Sky Conference career leader in rebounds (1,208).

Rounding out the six-player first team was sophomore Lexie Nelson of third-place Eastern Washington.

The five players on the second team were all seniors: Idaho State’s Kaela Oakes and Ashleigh Vella, Northern Colorado’s Lauren Oosdyke, Montana State’s Rachel Semansky and Portland State’s Courtney VanBrocklin.

Oakes, Oosdyke and Semansky were all former first-team All-Big Sky Conference selections.

Eastern Washington’s Hayley Hodgins was named the Big Sky’s Outstanding Freshman, Portland State junior Angela Misa, a transfer from Oregon State, the Top Newcomer.

2012-13 All-Big Sky Conference Team

First Team

Player (School) Year, Posn., Hometown

Katie Baker # (Montana) Sr., forward, Coeur d’Alene, Idaho

D’shara Strange # (Northern Colorado) Jr., Guard, Fountain, Colo.

Kenzie De Boer (Montana) Sr., guard, Lynden, Wash.

Kylie Kuhns (Sacramento State) Sr., forward, Salem, Ore.

Lexie Nelson (Eastern Washington) So., guard, Butte, Mont.

Amy Patton (Northern Arizona) Sr., guard, Tempe, Ariz.

# Unanimous selection

Second Team

Player (School) Year, Posn., Hometown

Kaela Oakes (Idaho State) Sr., guard, Chandler, Ariz.

Lauren Oosdyke (Northern Colorado) Sr., Forward, Coto de Caza, Calif.

Rachel Semansky (Montana State) Sr., forward, Highwood, Mont.

Courtney VanBrocklin (Portland State) Sr., guard, Deming, Wash.

Ashleigh Vella (Idaho State) Sr., forward, Melbourne, Australia

Honorable Mention: Carrie Ojeda, Eastern Washington; Madi Buck, North Dakota; Angela Misa, Portland State; Fantasia Hilliard, Sacramento State; Alle Moreno, Sacramento State; Hailey Mandelko, Southern Utah

Most Valuable Player: Katie Baker, Sr., Montana

Defensive Player of the Year: D’shara Strange, Jr., Northern Colorado

Top Newcomer: Angela Misa, Jr., Portland State

Outstanding Freshman: Hayley Hodgins, Eastern Washington


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