(Editor's note: MTN Sports is re-publishing the original stories from the #MTTop25, which launched in 2017 to profile some of the great girls basketball players in Montana history. Every Friday, we will unveil ‘all-decade teams’ that include athletes not profiled in the #MTTop25 countdown. Thus, players like Jill Barta, who graduated from Fairfield in 2014, and Shannon (Cate) Schweyen, who starred at Billings Central and Montana before ultimately coaching the Lady Griz, will not be featured on their respective decade teams. Those players will be featured in the top 25, regardless of era. Our intention is not to revise history, so we're not going to change the order in which the players were featured. However, some articles will include updates to reflect the latest developments in a player's career. This story was originally published on Aug. 4, 2017.)
No. 25 – Kayla Lambert, Brockton; No. 24 – Bobbi Knudsen, Malta; No. 23 – Kati Burrows, Bozeman; No. 22 – Lexie Nelson, Butte; No. 21 – Mandy Close, Bozeman; No. 20 – Sara Tuomi, Billings Senior; No. 19 – Peyton Ferris, Twin Bridges; No. 18 – Skyla Sisco, Malta; No. 17 – Cheri Bratt, Kalispell Flathead; No. 16 – Mandi Carver, Dillon; No. 15 – Andrea Lalum, Bozeman; No 14 – Greta Koss, Malta; No. 13 – Katie Edwards, Denton/Lewistown; No. 12 – Cass Bauer, Hysham; No. 11 – Lisa McLeod, Great Falls CMR, and Jeanne McNulty, Whitehall; No. 10 – Jill Barta, Fairfield; No. 9 – Marti Leibenguth, Missoula Big Sky; No. 8 – Sarah Flock, Belgrade; No. 7 – Vicki Heebner, Three Forks; No. 6 – Deb Prevost, Sidney.
Girls basketball has a long history in Montana – the Fort Shaw girls were declared the World Basketball Champions in 1904 – but the Montana High School Association didn’t sanction high school girls basketball until 1972.
While basketball might have a short history at the high school level, it’s a great history. Montana has produced many NCAA Division I college basketball players, and a few of those players have been recognized among the best in the entire country during their playing days. There have been some great teams, like those from Great Falls High in the 1980s or the more recent Fairfield teams.
But many of those players and teams never see the courts if not for the trailblazers of the 1970s. A number of female athletes, including Deb Prevost and Vicki Heebner, helped girls basketball gain its footing in the 1970s and into the 1980s.
“Girls softball and girls basketball, they were good right away, especially girls softball. Girls basketball took a little longer than that,” said former MHSA executive director Jim Haugen when speaking on the beginnings of new high school sports. “It was amazing how good those programs were early. Girls wanted to play. Every time we did any kind of survey as far as what they wanted to play, it was always softball and girls basketball.”
There were female basketball teams in the state, like the team at the Flathead Valley Community College (FVCC), before the MHSA sanctioned the game at the high school level. Haugen, who was the athletic director at Sidney High School at the time, added that high school-aged girls were playing organized basketball in the Billings area a few years before it became a sanctioned sport.
Girls basketball exploded once it became sanctioned, though. The first state champion was crowned in 1972, and there were already four classifications by 1977. While Prevost and Heebner were high school stars who demonstrated further success at the college level and, in Prevost’s case, the professional level, they weren’t the only female athletes to leave their marks on Montana’s basketball landscape and beyond during the 1970s.
1970-79 all-decade team
Julie Calahan, Havre
Calahan, a 1976 Havre High School graduate, had a stellar career at Northwestern, becoming the first women’s basketball player in program history to earn all-America honors. She was a third-team selection after averaging 20.6 points and 8.8 rebounds per game as a senior during the 1980-81 season. Calahan ranks ninth on the Wildcats’ career scoring list with 1,648 points and holds the program’s single-game rebound record with 26 boards in a 1981 game against Indiana. She was inducted into the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003.
Teri Camel, Ronan
Camel was an all-state athlete in both track and field and basketball while competing at Ronan in the early 1970s. She helped the Maidens to district and divisional track titles in 1973 and set the Class A record in the long jump with a mark of 17 feet, 8 inches. On the basketball court, Camel was a dominant rebounder from her center position. She corralled 14.3 rebounds per game in 1973, ranking sixth in the MHSA’s single-season record book.
Ruth Fugleberg, Polson
Fugleberg starred at Boise State, putting up one of the best single seasons in program history when she averaged 16.5 points and 8.5 rebounds per game during the 1979-80 campaign. Fugleberg has the Broncos’ second-best career scoring average at 16.2 points per game and third-best career rebounding average at 9.3 rebounds per game.
Vicki Hileman, Whitefish
Hileman was a scoring sensation at Whitefish, averaging 26.8 points per game during 1974, her lone high school season. That mark is still one of the best single-season scoring averages in Montana history, according to the MHSA record books. Hileman played at FVCC before playing at Boise State, where was a finalist for the Wade Trophy, an award given annually to the best college basketball player in the country.
Sandy Selvig, Outlook
After playing her high school basketball at Outlook, Selvig was a four-year letter-winner at Montana, leading the team in assists and steals during the 1979-80 season. She was also recognized as the team’s outstanding defensive player for her efforts during the 1980-81 season.