HAVRE — It didn’t take long for Hailey Nicholson to find a new home.
The Malta product announced last week that she would be leaving the Montana Lady Griz basketball program, with the University of Montana confirming the news last Wednesday. Former Great Falls High product Nora Klick also announced she wouldn’t return to the program next season.
“She wanted to come home and play with her sister (Jada). She’s really excited to get that opportunity, and also to be only 80 miles from home,” said Skylights’ coach Chris Mouat. “I certainly didn’t see it coming, but I’m excited to have a player of Hailey’s caliber join the program.”
“I’m really excited for a fresh start with my sister,” echoed Nicholson. “I’m thankful for the opportunities I had in Missoula, but I’m excited to get closer to home to finish my career.”
Nicholson was a three-time all-state athlete at Malta High School, leading the M-ettes to undefeated State B championships as a junior and senior, earning most valuable player honors in her final state tournament. She averaged 14 points and nearly eight rebounds per game as a senior and helped guide Malta to a 74-2 record in her final three seasons with the program.
Nicholson played in each game for the Lady Griz as a sophomore this season, starting five, while averaging nearly five points and four rebounds in 15 minutes of playing time. She started 16 games as a true freshman in coach Shannon Schweyen’s first season at the helm.
“Hailey is a big addition to our program. She is very athletic and can play with her back to the basket and on the perimeter. She rebounds well at both ends and can get to the rim off of the dribble. She has the ability to be an impact player in the Frontier Conference,” said Mouat. “Hailey is someone we’ve known for a long time and she’s spent some time around our program over the years. She has a huge upside and will bring a lot to our program.”
Nicholson joins an MSU-Northern program that finished the season 11-20 overall and 3-15 in Frontier Conference play. The Skylights had four seniors on the roster — Jacy Thompson, Brandy Lambourne, Peyton Filius and Kealani Sagapolu. Thompson suffered a knee injury in January, her third torn ACL, and missed the remainder of the season.
Filius and Lambourne led MSU-N in scoring last season, averaging 12.1 and 11.6 points, respectively. Sophomore Shiloh McCormick was third on the team in scoring at 11.5 points per game, and was second for the Skylights with 6.1 rebounds per contest.
“They know each other, that’s the best thing,” Mouat said of Nicholson and McCormick. “They played in the Hi-Line Invitational Tournament, the Montana-Wyoming all-star game, so familiarity goes a long way. They’re both Montana kids and have grown up playing either with or against each other. That makes it a smooth transition and it’s a good fit that way.”
Havre’s KPQX first reported the news on Twitter.