MILES CITY — Perfection isn’t what continues to drive the Miles Community College women’s basketball team.
“Regardless of our record, we really feel like we still have a lot to prove,” MCC head coach Nate Vogel said. “There’s a lot of people who still don’t respect what we’re doing, so we find a lot of ways to stay motivated regardless of our record.”
The Pioneers are 30-0 and sit No. 17 in the NJCAA DI women’s basketball rankings and have been blitzing opponents all year. They’re outscoring the opposition by 30.8 points per game, largely led by their full-court pressure. MCC employs its press for the entire 40 minutes, but at a rate other teams can’t keep up with. The Pioneers are averaging 17.8 steals per game this year and are holding teams to 36 percent shooting.
Often, coach Vogel trots out all 12 players and gets contributions from each. No player averages more than 24 minutes per game, while all 12 average at least 10.
“We don’t consider whoever is coming off the bench on any given night our bench players, because they’ve started at some point in the year,” Vogel said. “And we really don’t feel like we lose anything. When we bring somebody off the court and put somebody back in, we feel like we don’t lose a step. They’re just as talented as the young woman they’re replacing, so we feel comfortable playing a lot of players.”
“We can press for a full 40 minutes because we can play 12 people,” said Dakota Dosch, a sophomore from Cut Bank. “If some of us get tired we can put subs in and the energy and pace of the game doesn’t change. It’s awesome. Everybody can fill a role that’s needed. It’s really nice, especially having rotations, fresh new legs, we can just keep up the fast pace.”
But it’s not only the frenzied pressure that Vogel likes his team to employ. MCC also plays at a frenetic pace. The high volume of steals allows it to get out in transition, where the Pioneers become even more aggressive. They’re hitting nearly 11 3-pointers per game on just more than 29 attempts, many coming when the defenses collapse in the open floor.
MCC’s vast array of offensive weapons makes it increasingly hard to game-plan for. Even with all the success throughout the year, the Pioneers have continued to put in the work. They’ve been focused on improving daily, regardless of their record, and still have the same hunger and motivation as early in the season.
“We talk about how you can’t get bored with the process,” said Kylee Meredith, a sophomore form Kalispell Flathead. “We can’t get bored doing the little things that have worked for us, otherwise teams are going to catch up to us.”
“It’s a long season and lots of games and lots of practice,” Dosch said. “I think we’ve done so good sticking together and trying to get better every day, every practice and every game.”
The Pioneers throw their 30-0 regular-season record to the wayside as they host the 2019 NJCAA Region XIII tournament that tipped off Friday and runs through Sunday. Although it’s possible MCC makes the national tournament as one of eight at-large teams, Vogel says it’s nearly a must for the Pioneers to win the regional tournament.
But not even that would guarantee No. 17 MCC a spot in the national tournament. The winner of Region XIII would play the winner of Region IV to determine the automatic bid to the national tournament.
“We’re right on the edge and really don’t feel comfortable relying on that. Even though we’re 30-0, we haven’t got a lot of respect in the polls, so we’re not relying on one of those at-large bids,” said Vogel.
MCC is set to play the winner of Dawson Community College and Lake Region State College at 2 p.m. on Saturday afternoon in the semifinals.
Perfection isn’t what drives the Pioneers, but it would secure a bid in the national tournament.