All peaks, No Valleys for Big Sky POW



Traveling with only eight healthy players last week to Southern Utah and Northern Arizona, Montana was in need of something special if it hoped to continue its February surge. The Lady Griz got it, and the sweep, with a Big Sky Conference Player of the Week effort from Kayleigh Valley.

The junior forward averaged 28 points on 61.1 percent shooting and six rebounds in the two wins. It was her third player of the week award of the season, the fourth of her career. And the fifth this season for Montana, which also has had McCalle Feller and Alycia Sims recognized.

Valley scored 30 points on 12-of-17 shooting in Montana’s 81-50 win on Thursday at Southern Utah and added 26 more on 10-of-19 shooting in its 61-57 victory at Northern Arizona on Saturday that extended the Lady Griz’ winning streak to four.

“Kayleigh has been consistently really good all year, and she was great last week. She was a great leader on that trip and had two big games,” said UM coach Robin Selvig.

ValleyValley became the 32nd player in program history to reach 1,000 career points in Thursday’s win, and Montana trailed for less than six minutes in the two games.

And all of it came without McCalle Feller, the team’s second-leading scorer at more than 17 points per game, who was out with an ankle injury. Her absence was the elephant in the locker room. Obvious to all but unspoken among those in uniform.

“Everyone knew, whether it was said or not, that we all needed to step up,” says Valley, who leads the Big Sky in scoring at 20.8 points per game.

In Thursday’s win, Sims, Hannah Doran and Sierra Anderson combined for 40 points, 20 above their combined season average, and the Lady Griz limited the Thunderbirds to 28.8 percent shooting.

With Valley in foul trouble and on the bench for six straight minutes of the second half in Saturday’s win, Doran, getting her third straight start in place of Feller, played all 40 minutes and finished with 14 points, eight rebounds, four steals and three assists.

Valley’s was an individual award, but it was earned by the team.

“We know McCalle obviously brings a lot to the table,” said Valley. “It wasn’t necessarily having people score more. It was about us being more of a team and focusing on the small things and the defensive end. We all needed to step up in those areas.”

The road sweep, the team’s first of the season, still leaves Montana (15-9, 8-5 BSC) outside of the top four in the Big Sky standings, but the Lady Griz have closed to within half a game of fourth-place Weber State (16-7, 8-4 BSC) with three weeks remaining in the regular season.

The Lady Griz will host first-place Montana State on Saturday, then Idaho State and Weber State next week before closing out the regular season with games at North Dakota and Northern Colorado the first week of March.