(Editor's note: MCC Athletics release)
MILES CITY - Last year's Covid shortened season was a season to remember for the Miles Community College basketball women. The Pioneers were the MonDak Conference and Region XIII Champions and then defeated Gulf Coast State in the first round of the NJCAA National Tournament. All 5 starters from that team are gone including NJCAA Player of the Year and leading scorer Rebecca Dallinger.
The new look Pioneers have a new coach in Darin Spence. Spence comes to MCC with a wealth of experience that included stops at the NJCAA, NCAA Division II, and NCAA Division 1 as a head coach. His last stop was Newman University in Wichita, Kansas.
"Each day will be a learning experience for us as we navigate together and grow throughout the season," Spence said.
The Pioneers return 4 players from last year's roster and have 6 new players and the Pioneers also lost 90% of the scoring punch from last year. Kelbee Denham [mccpioneers.com] (Malta, MT) is the leading returner in terms of scoring at 6 points per game. , Molly Cockburn [mccpioneers.com] (Christchurch, New Zealand), Jasmine Grossman [mccpioneers.com] (Manhattan, MT) and Isabel Saltenberger [mccpioneers.com] (Anaconda, MT) are bringing their championship experiences from last season to this season.
"It is now their time to step in to a new role, work to thrive in their role, and become solid players for us each day in practice and in competition," Spence continued. "Kelbee has the ability to make shots from all over the floor. Molly is a slashing type player who can get to the lane and also knock down shots. Jasmin is a do all type player who brings a toughness to floor and the ability to make shots. Isabel is our glue type player who can do a lot of things for us.
A duo of transfers; Citlalli Gurrola [mccpioneers.com] (San Diego, CA and UNLV) and Gabby Flute Player [mccpioneers.com] (Flandreau, SD and Barton CC) will be called on for experience and competitive drive on both ends of the floor. Both Citlalli and Gabby have the ability to shoot with range. We have a talented group of 1st year college players stepping in to the program who are working hard to find their way. India Blyth [mccpioneers.com] (Melbourne, Australia) is a talented point guard who will be called on to run our team and provide a spark on both ends. Aylin Ramirez [mccpioneers.com] (Phoenix, AZ) brings a high energy level to the point guard position, is a solid defender, and finds ways to score. Catalina de Giorgi [mccpioneers.com] (Buenos Aires, Argentina) is a talented forward player who can score inside and step out to shoot with range. Angelina Dimasi [mccpioneers.com] (Waroona, Austraila) has the ability to be a very good player and can play multiple positions on the floor. Freshman Ella Paleaae-Cook will bring her talents to the court second semester.
MCC's men also have some new looks this season.
"It will take some time to mesh the returners with the new players and get those that have had injuries early in the season on the same page with the others," head coach Chase Tate said.
Gone from last year's team that finished 13-10 and lost an overtime contest to Williston State in the Region XIII Playoffs are 4 starters and backup post player. The Pioneers return only one starter and only 26% of the team's offense from a Covid shortened 2021 campaign. The lone returning starter is Eli Habighorst [mccpioneers.com] (6'0, Las Vegas, NV), a point guard that averaged 9 points and 5 assists and started all 23 games last season. Ben Datro [mccpioneers.com] (6'0 Guard, Montreal, Quebec) had a strong finish to the season off the bench and should provide some scoring punch this year. The other returners are Kaleb Naylor [mccpioneers.com] (6'1 SG, Zion, Illinois), Zack Baker [mccpioneers.com] (5'11 Guard, Frenchtown, MT), and Rylee Watt [mccpioneers.com] (6'3 Forward, Livingston, MT). Those players played behind All-Conference performers Favour Chukwukelu and Dylan Hushaw and will be counted on to pick up some of the slack for Coach Chase Tait's Pioneers.
Newcomers to the program include Tvon Jones [mccpioneers.com] (6'2 Forward, Philadelphia, PA), a slashing wing with ability to score multiple ways and Ethan Bell [mccpioneers.com] (5'11, Chinook, MT) a PG that will provide depth at that position. Denzel Kabasele [mccpioneers.com] (6'2 Guard, Lancaster, PA) will join the mix as a wing player that drives the ball well and plays solid defense and Ray Daniels [mccpioneers.com] (6'6, Las Vegas, NV) who can play both inside and out. New frontline players that give the Pioneers some much needed size that was a point of concern from last season include Blessing Adesipe [mccpioneers.com] (6'6, Houston, TX), a transfer from Tyler JC in Texas that can play multiple positions and Paul Gakmar [mccpioneers.com] (6'7, Perth, Australia) who has good bounce and can run the floor as well as anyone. David Gorianskii [mccpioneers.com] (7'0, Tralee, Ireland) provides a good touch around the hoop and good potential up front.