(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. 11, 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; No. 5 – Loree Payne, Havre; No. 4 – Mandy Morales, Huntley Project/Billings West; No. 3 – Joslyn Tinkle, Missoula Big Sky; No. 2 – Karen Deden, Missoula Sentinel; No. 1 – Shannon Cate, Billings Central.
The #MTTop25 countdown started back in July with Brockton’s Kayla Lambert, Montana’s all-time leading scorer at the high school level, at No. 25. Lambert, who signed to play at the University of Montana but never actually played for the Lady Griz, was just one of three non-NCAA Division I college basketball players to be featured in the #MTTop25, a list recognizing some of the best female basketball players to come out of Montana.
The Frontier Conference, though, has a long and proud history in the Treasure State, and many great athletes have played their basketball at the NAIA level.
Though these players didn’t play for the Lady Griz, Montana State Bobcats or a Pac-12 program, they did put together impressive resumes, earning all-America recognition and other awards across the country. This obviously isn’t a comprehensive list, but here are five women, who all played their high school basketball in Montana before spectacular careers in the Frontier Conference.
Natalee Faupel, Montana State-Northern via Butte
Faupel was a nice player at Butte High, but became a great player at Montana State-Northern. She was a three-time first-team all-conference player for the Skylights, winning the league’s MVP award after her junior season in 2015-16. A two-time NAIA all-American, as well as a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association all-American, Faupel left Northern as the program’s all-time leading scorer with 1,829 points.
Jolene Fuzesy, Carroll College via Malta and Havre
Fuzesy is arguably the best shooter to ever come out of Montana. An all-stater at Malta, Fuzesy transferred to Havre for her senior season, where she made 53.6 percent of her 3-pointers to place her name in the Montana High School Association record books. Fusezy was equally as lethal at Carroll College, setting the career college basketball record for 3-point percentage. She made 464 of 899 3-point attempts (51.6 percent) during her career, finishing with 2,062 points.
Sheila Green, Montana State-Northern via Clancy
Green was part of four Frontier Conference championship teams at MSU-Northern, advancing to the NAIA national tournament four times. A league MVP and NAIA II Kodak all-American, Green left the Skylights as the program’s career leading scorer. She now ranks second (behind Natalee Faupel) with 1,566 career points. Green, now Green Gerding, spent 22 seasons as the head women’s basketball coach at Minot State. She resigned in 2017 as the program’s all-time leader in wins with 360.
Julie Kieckbusch, Montana Tech via Sheridan
Kieckbusch was inducted into Montana Tech’s Digger Athletics Hall of Fame in 2003 after setting a couple program records when she played from 1988-92. A four-time all-conference player, Kieckbusch was named the league MVP in 1992. She averaged 19.7 points per game over her career, finishing with 1,911 points on 714 made field goals, both program records.
Bobbi Suhr, Montana Western via Harrison
Suhr helped Western win the first Frontier Conference championship in program history and then went on to win two more conference titles. She was a three-time league MVP, two-time Kodak all-American and a second-team NAIA all-American. By the time her career finished in 2003, Suhr had scored more than 2,000 points and grabbed more than 1,000 rebounds, setting the program records in both.