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Montana Lady Griz say goodbye to senior class, turn attention to next season

Montana vs. Northern Arizona - Big Sky Conference women's basketball quarterfinals
Posted at 5:22 PM, Mar 11, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-12 01:02:10-04

BOISE -- The Montana Lady Griz bowed out of the 2020 Big Sky Conference women's basketball tournament in Tuesday's quarterfinal round to Northern Arizona.

It was a tough ending for a strong senior class in McKenzie Johnston, Emma Stockholm and Taylor Goligoski, a trio who began their college basketball careers in Shannon Schweyen's first year as head coach of the Lady Griz. Johnston, a Helena native, finished the game with 18 points to give her 1,398 for her career, good enough to rank her seventh all-time in Lady Griz career scoring. Johnston also finished with 515 assists in her career in a Montana jersey, which puts her fourth all-time.

Stockholm started every game she played in in her final two seasons and finished with 876 points and 516 rebounds, while Goligoski, a Hamilton native, battled through injury to bounce back in a reserve role as a senior. She finished with 858 points scored for UM.

Those three have now finished their careers at Montana. So what's next for the Lady Griz?

UM will return three starters in redshirt junior Madi Schoening and redshirt sophomores Abby Anderson and Sophia Stiles. While Stiles and Anderson started in every game they played in, Schoening became a full-time starter in the second half of the season and averaged 6.7 points and 4.3 rebounds per game. After battling injuries early on in her Lady Griz career, Stiles averaged 5.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists per game this season.

Anderson, meanwhile, broke out early as a young star for the Lady Griz. The forward averaged nine points and 4.1 rebounds for Montana.

Along with those three, redshirt junior Gabi Harrington will return for her final season with the Lady Griz. Harrington started 15 games at the beginning of the season and averaged 7.5 points and 4.5 rebounds per game with an average of 23.2 minutes per game.

True freshman and former two-time Gatorade Montana player of the year Jamie Pickens will also be a key factor moving forward. Pickens averaged 7.6 points in 17.1 minutes per game in her first college season. A highly touted recruit out of Helena High with one of the most storied prep careers in Montana history, Pickens' development will greatly affect how the Lady Griz move forward and where their success moves. Sophomore Kylie Frohlich also saw time in the rotation throughout the season.

“I thought we showed some really bright spots," Schweyen said after the loss. "Abby over here, this tall drink of water. What she did this season a lot of people thought, 'Oh, this is such a big surprise.' We’ve seen what Abby can do and the sky is the limit for her. She’s going to be ranked in the Big Sky in blocks and in the country, I’m positive of it, the next couple of years. She’s become a heck of a little scorer on top of being an unbelievable defender coming off of a game where she had 7-9 blocks.

"We have Sophia Stiles, Jamie Pickens, lots of good kids back. Gabi and Madi and lots of good kids. We’re losing one hell of a player in this point guard here (Johnston), but I like what we have coming back.”

Then, there's Carmen Gfeller and Jordyn Schweyen, both of whom played last year as true freshmen but redshirted this year, as well as Shelby Schweyen, who redshirted in her first year of college basketball.

Plus the Lady Griz have a recruiting class heavy on Montana talent coming in which will be headlined by Gatorade player of the year Kyndall Keller of Havre.

Shannon Schweyen's job status will be one to monitor, as well, now that her fourth season is over. Schweyen entered the season after signing a one-year deal with a lot to prove after her first few seasons were riddled with injuries. While the 12-8 mark in league play was the best the Lady Griz had under Schweyen, the early exit in the quarterfinal round hurts, especially after the Lady Griz had a bye in the first round. All eyes will be on UM's athletic department and what they decide to do moving forward.

But when asked if Schweyen felt the Lady Griz were back on the cusp of being atop the league again, she felt confident in her group.

"Every year you think how are you going to replace these kids. Everybody goes through that," she said. "Somebody seems to step into that role and when they get that chance they make the most of it and that's kind of what coaching is about, is every year it's a new puzzle and people step into those pieces and I think we have some great kids coming up to do that."