BOZEMAN — (EDITOR'S NOTE: MONTANA STATE ATHLETICS PRESS RELEASE)
Montana State senior Tori Martell was named Bobcat women’s basketball’s most valuable player at its annual awards banquet. Martell, a product of Somerset, Wis., had an outstanding season both on and off the court.
A second-team all-Big Sky Conference performer, Martell averaged 13.3 points and 3.1 rebounds, while leading the league in three-point field goals per game, three-point field goals made, three-point field goals attempted and three-point field goal percentage. She finished ranked 16th in the country averaging 2.88 triples per contest and was 20th with 69 3-pointers on the season. Martell’s 41.3% three-point field goal shooting was 30th in the country.
In addition, Martell set MSU’s school-record with eight 3-pointers against North Dakota on Dec. 6, 2020. In all, she posted 16 double-figure scoring games, including four with 20 or more points. Martell notched a career-high 26 points against UND in season-opener. She finished her career winning the Rocket Mortgage Women’s 3-Point Championship at the men’s Final Four in Indianapolis, defeating Abilene Christian’s Anna McLeod 22-10 in the championships round. Martell also won the IHOP Team Shootout combining with Toledo’s Spencer Littleson and St. Francis Brooklyn’s Unique McLean.
“Tori was an incredible example for her teammates bringing consistency to the court this year,” said MSU head coach Tricia Binford. “Not only was she the three-point shooter that we all know and love, but she was the one that was always in the right spot doing the right thing. Tori was one to perfect her craft over her career and it showed in her game. Her teammates voted her MVP for a reason.”
Off the court, the four-time all-Big Sky Academic honoree earned a nursing degree with a 4.00 grade-point average. For her efforts in the classroom, Martell was one of five players named to the 2020-21 CoSIDA Academic All-District 6 team and is now on the national ballot for Academic All-America recognition.
Sophomore Darian White won The Eddy for best defensive player. Named after Angel Nickelson, the only four-time winner of the award, White took home the honor for the second consecutive season.
The product of Boise, Idaho led the Big Sky in steals and steals per game. White’s 65 steals on the season ranked 22nd in the nation, while her 2.71 thefts per contest was 24th best. Under the boards, she guided the Bobcats from her point-guard position, averaging a team-best 5.1 rebounds per game.
“Darian’s defense starts at 94-feet every play,” Binford said. “Her tenacity on defense sets the tone for the rest of her teammates. She is a hard worker in practice, and it transfers to her effort on game days.”
Lexi Deden, a freshman from Missoula, was named most improved player. Deden played in 24 games, averaging 17.9 minutes per contest. For the season, she averaged 6.9 points and 4.3 rebounds per contest. Both marks were third best on the squad. The former Sentinel High School standout recorded a season-high 22 points in MSU’s win over Northern Arizona. Deden shot 43.3% from the field, which ranked first on the team.
“As a freshman, she came to work each day and was fearless in her effort whether she was right or not,” Binford said. “Her effort in and outside of practice was a key part of our tenacity this year.”
Leia Beattie, a freshman from Midland, Texas, was named the Dr. Ginny Hunt Bobcat Pride recipient. The award goes to the player that best exemplifies what it means to be a Bobcat. Beattie played in 23 games and averaged 3.7 points and 2.1 rebounds. She had a career-high 14 points leading MSU to victory over Northern Arizona on Jan. 23 in Worthington Arena.
“Leia epitomized our core values of selflessness, toughness, reliability, and discipline,” Binford said. “Throughout the year she displayed amazing consistency in her relationships with teammates, along with a strong work ethic on the court and in the classroom.”
Three players captured the Pulfrey Brick award, given for efforts in practice, day-in and day-out. Sharing the honor were Ashley Van Sickle, Katelynn Limardo and Sydney Stensgard.
“Ashley juggled student-teaching during the season, which had her coming late to practice,” Binford stated. “Regardless, she was able to turn it on and positively impact her teammates when she got to the gym. She brought competitive energy and was pivotal in elevating practices.
“KJ always wants to be on the court,” Binford continued. “She went hard on every play in every practice and never took a break. Sydney did an incredible job at pushing her teammates to be better. She took on any role that was needed for us to be successful.”
Sidney Zieske, who recently graduated with a degree in exercise science, captured the Bobcat Strength and Conditioning award.
“Sidney set the tone in the weight room,” Binford commented. “On a hard day, she was the one that found value in the nitty gritty. She loved to push herself in the weight room and was a prime example of what attention to detail looks like to her teammates. Sidney always brought the energy and found value in the work.”
For the second time in program history, ardent Bobcat supporter Celia O’Connor won the Ellen Kreighbaum award for dedication to the program above and beyond.
“In a very difficult year, we took comfort in the great backing we received from all of our constituents,” Binford said. “Celia has been a passionate champion of our program for many years, and it is gratefully appreciated.”