MISSOULA – If you look closely enough at Missoula Sentinel’s basketball jerseys, you can start to see shades of Carroll College purple.
The Spartans, who are putting together one of the program’s best boys basketball seasons in recent memory, bridge the Fighting Saints’ decorated past to its optimistic future. Sentinel head coach Jay Jagelski played for Carroll from 2001-04, and assistant coach Andy Garland, a former Sentinel player, is one of the best ever to put on a Carroll uniform, scoring 1,985 career points.
Sam Beighle is next in line.
“I knew (Jagelski and Garland) wanted me to go (to Carroll) the whole time,” Beighle said with a laugh, “because we had a coach go to Rocky (Mountain College). It was a tough choice. It was between those two. … It just came to me that it was going to be Carroll. I went on a visit to Rocky and I went to Carroll. I couldn’t pass up Carroll.”
“I think it’s awesome that he’s going to Carroll,” Jagelski said. “I think Carroll’s got one heck of a player. I think Sam’s going to be really impactful there. Obviously I do have an allegiance to Carroll – I love that place – but I think for Sam, it’s all about Sam, he’s going to be a great player there.”
Beighle has proven to be one of the best players in Montana this season, averaging a Class AA-leading 22.9 points per game for the Spartans, shooting 54.5 percent from the floor and a sizzling 49.6 percent from 3-point range. The 6-foot-3 senior has led the Spartans in scoring in all but three games this season.
“He’s a scorer. I think he’s one of the best players in the state,” Jagelski said. “I’m obviously a little biased, but I think he just backs it up with everything he does out there.”
Scoring is obviously Beighle’s forte, but he’s more than just a scorer. He also leads the team in rebounding (7.3 per game), assists (2.9 per game) and steals (1.6 per game).
Beighle’s biggest strength, though, is knowing how to adjust his game for different looks opposing teams throw at the Spartans. He had a three-game Western AA slump when he scored 11 points at Helena High, 12 points at Helena Capital and just two points versus Kalispell Flathead.
In the seven games since, he’s scored 36, 21, 24, 31, 25, 34 and 26 points.
“I always like letting the game come to me,” Beighle said. “I try to attack right away, but every game is different in high school – different officials, different atmospheres, everything, different players. Sometimes I’ll get a bunch of football players that’ll just come body me up and be really physical, and then I’ll get a diamond-and-1. It varies, so it always takes a little bit to adjust. I try to adjust as quickly as possible.”
With Beighle’s high school career winding down – the Western AA divisional tournament starts Thursday where the 15-3 Spartans are the No. 1 seed – his next big adjustment will be to the college game in the Frontier Conference, where his coach says Beighle will have to adapt to the physicality.
“He’s going to have to get stronger, he’s going to have to get quicker,” Jagelski said. “Those Frontier guards are no slouches. You’re dealing with 6-4, 6-5 two-, three-guards that can get to the rim very, very well, so he’s going to have to keep working on his defense on the perimeter and keep improving his feet.”
One thing he won’t have to fix is his shot. After all, Beighle’s a scorer.
“That’s what’s gotten me where I am today,” he said. “I’m sure they’re just hoping I can carry that on to the next level.”
If Beighle shoots as well in Carroll purple as he does Sentinel purple, Saints fans might be seeing shades of the Saints’ past in their future.