(Editor's note: University of Montana press release)
It’s a heavy burden Sophia Stiles carries with her every time she steps on the basketball court, whether it’s at practice or in a game.
“I’ve told her, you can’t relax. How you play is how our team plays. You’re our leader, so you have to be locked in at all times,” said first-year coach Brian Holsinger.
Stiles was just that last week as Montana went 2-0 at the Grand Canyon Women’s Basketball Classic in Phoenix to extend its winning streak to four and improve to 5-1 on the season.
After averaging 13.5 points, 10 rebounds and 5.5 assists in wins over Houston Baptist and Nicholls State, Stiles on Tuesday was named the Big Sky Conference Player of the Week.
It was a first for Stiles in her career and gave Montana back-to-back Player of the Week winners after Carmen Gfeller collected the award last Tuesday.
It is the first time since 2015-16 that the Lady Griz have had multiple Players of the Week in the same season.
Montana got past Houston Baptist on Friday despite shooting a season-low 37.7 percent and turning the ball over 19 times.
But the Lady Griz did enough to pull out a 59-56 overtime victory, outrebounding the Huskies 57-42 and limiting them to 28.9 percent shooting to rally back from a six-point deficit early in the fourth quarter.
Stiles piled up some nice numbers, eight points, 10 rebounds, four assists while playing more than 42 minutes, but she made just four of her 15 shots.
“I really challenged her in the second game,” said Holsinger, knowing what he’d likely get from that approach.
Less than three and a half minutes into Saturday’s game against Nicholls State, Montana led 14-0. The lead was 29-4 after one quarter, 46-16 at the half.
The Lady Griz shot a season-best 51.7 percent, with Stiles going 8 for 11, 3 of 4 from 3-point range. Her 19 points was the fourth-highest scoring output of her career.
She once again grabbed 10 rebounds and, with seven assists, brought to mind the idea of a triple-double, a feat no player in Lady Griz history has pulled off.
“She came out and played her best game of the season by far. She was focused and ready to go right from the start,” said Holsinger. “She did all the little things she does for our team.
“She was really good both games but shot the ball significantly better the second game. I’m proud of her. She is a warrior and a big-time competitor who really wants to win.”
At 5-1, Montana is off to its best start since the 2013-14 team opened 6-1.
The Lady Griz, who sit atop the Big Sky standings, open league this week with home games against Sacramento State on Thursday, Northern Colorado on Saturday.