(Editor’s note: story by Montana Sports Information)
MISSOULA – There was a stretch early in the second quarter of Tuesday night’s Maroon-Silver scrimmage at Dahlberg Arena when the Lady Griz, on both sides, scored on six straight possessions and nine of 10. And there was a buzz that circuited through the crowd that hadn’t been felt in a while. This was something new.
“The execution of plays was a lot better than in the past. It was fun,” said junior point guard McKenzie Johnston, who scored 14 points to lead Maroon to a 62-45 victory. With Johnston directing her team’s offense, Maroon shot 47.3 percent.
“I think we’re sharing the ball well,” Johnston added. “You can see a lot more confidence in all the girls. You’re assuming the ball is going in more than the past couple of years.”
There were the usual highs and lows of the team’s first public scrimmage. For as well as Maroon shot it, scoring 62 points in a 32-minute game, Silver, with a changing roster as players shuffled between teams, shot just 31.0 percent.
But there was no denying that the level of play at the scrimmage was higher than it was in third-year coach Shannon Schweyen’s first two years.
The Lady Griz pushed it every chance they had and showed scoring punch from a variety of players, with Jace Henderson, the team’s lone senior, scoring 11 points and grabbing nine rebounds, Madi Schoening 14 points and Taylor Goligoski 13 points.
“I feel like things were a little more up-tempo at times, but we didn’t shoot it great today,” said Schweyen. “We’ve had some kids shooting it better in our other two scrimmages. We’ve got to play to our strengths and figure out what those are.
“You’re happy, you’re excited, but you’re never satisfied.”
Schweyen wasn’t. And neither was Goligoski, despite scoring her 13 points on 6-of-10 shooting.
Goligoski shot 32.8 percent last season, 28.7 percent from the arc, but she had a strong showing in a small sample size on Tuesday, scoring not only from the arc but at the rim on some strong takes to the basket.
It bears repeating: She might be the wild card in this whole thing, the x-factor that takes Montana from here to there faster than anyone saw coming.
“I wouldn’t say I was feeling it. I can do better, but I shot decent. It felt good to get a few shots down,” Goligoski said. “We have some really talented offensive players. We didn’t play our best, but as a whole we played pretty well.”
For the few hundred fans in attendance, they got a sneak peak at what’s to come, after Sammy Fatkin sits this season out after transferring from Arizona. She’s a special talent who finished the night with eight points and five assists.
And she wasn’t the only newcomer who opened some eyes. There was Katie Mayhue hitting back-to-back jumpers late in the first quarter as Maroon began building its lead, and there was Carmen Gfeller, who added 11 points on 5-of-7 shooting and seven rebounds while splitting time between both teams.
And there was Jordyn Schweyen going 2 for 3 from the arc in her time with Silver and Abby Anderson blocking a pair of shots in addition to showing some offensive flash, from knocking down a mid-range jumper to attacking the basket from the high post.
“It’s fun to be able to run up and down the court and have a bunch of girls who can bring it up and start a break,” said Johnston. “It’s definitely a different look than in the past.”
Montana had five more assists than turnovers, which was a good sign, but the Lady Griz also went just 7 for 28 from the arc, which was not a good sign and brought back memories of the last two seasons, when that part of the game held the team back.
But remember that this wasn’t the team’s first scrimmage. Behind closed doors, the first two scrimmages had some much better shooting from distance. Call Tuesday night stage fright.
“We’ve had some kids shooting it better in our other two scrimmages,” said Schweyen. “We’ll have to wait and see what happens in games.”
It won’t be long before Schweyen and her team will get a more realistic look at themselves, when Carroll comes to town for an exhibition game next Tuesday.
“It’s going to be exciting to play somebody else,” said Schweyen. “You never really know where you’re at until that happens.
“I’m happy with what we’re doing. I think we’re ahead of where we were last year. We’re experienced for sure and then have a really young group, but I like the way they’re coming on.”