Former Copperheads help Lady Griz to 2012-13 Big Sky championship

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Ali Hurley and Torry Hill after they helped Montana win the 2012-13 Big Sky Conference championship Saturday, March 16 in Missoula

On Saturday, Anaconda natives Ali Hurley and Torry Hill helped earn the Lady Griz a 56-43 win over Northern Colorado to earn the 2012-13 Big Sky Women’s championship title and automatic berth in next week’s NCAA Tournament at a site to be determined.

The likely place for the Lady Griz will be in the Spokane First and Second rounds played on the Campus of Gonzaga University, but Monday’s nationally televised selection show on the ESPN family of networks will unveil where their true destination is.

Hill’s statline looks pretty mundane – a 1-for-4 shooting performance good for three points with an assist and two steals – however her transformation from dynamic scoring threat into one of the Big Sky’s leading turnover to assist ratio point guards is remarkable. Through 27 minutes of play, Hill had just one turnover against heavy perimeter pressure by an obviously frustrated UNC. That the Griz shot just 27.3 percent (15-for-55) was one of the reasons her assists to turnover ratio suffered in the title game. Defensively, she was lights out. Along with a team goal to shut down the fantastic guard D’shara Strange, Hill and Co. limited the explosive Bears offense to just 15 of 47 shooting (31.9 pct.) and 2 of 13 from behind the arc.

Hurley brought her “A” game at the most important time for the Lady Griz. Relegated as a role player and key reserve off the bench for rebounding and defense, Hurley cemented herself as a resilient, reliable and key cog for the team this year. Last night, Hurley hauled in nine rebounds. Then Saturday, she grabbed seven boards dished out an assist in just 11 minutes of play.

Because of their unselfishness, both Hill and Hurley have stepped back from the more popular and glamourous scoring roles in order to do what’s best for the team. And look at the results. Both have now won two Big Sky championships and will be making their second trip into the NCAA Tournament (the last one coming in 2010-11 against UCLA in Spokane). Ali played in that loss to the Bruins while Torry was out with an ankle injury, so this trip, being that it’s Hurley’s final season with the Griz, is going to be special.

What’s special for me is their impact on girls’ basketball in Anaconda. They are forever linked to the greatness of back-to-back Class A state titles in 2008-09 for the Copperheads (Ali graduated in 2008), not to mention rising to the top by playing Division I basketball for one of the most storied coaches in women’s basketball history (Robin Selvig).

We may have to wait another 50 years to see one D-I basketball player come out of Anaconda, let alone having them being a part of a big-time conference championship team. Today, we have two.

Not too bad for these two humble and classy girls that proudly wore “Anaconda” across their chests.

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Ali cuts down the net

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Torry goofing on her net-cutting ceremony

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Ali Hurley congratulating Robin Selvig during the awards ceremony

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Ali celebrating with Big Sky Conference MVP Katie Baker after Saturday’s win

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Left to right: Jordan Sullivan, Torry Hill, Kellie Cole, Alyssa Smith, Kenzie DeBoer and Katie Baker watch the final seconds tick off the clock Saturday

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Ali Hurley shot attempt

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Torry with the low post entry

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Torry strips the ball from LIndsay Mallon

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Torry battling for a rebound

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Alyssa Smith, Kenzie DeBoer, Ali Hurley and Katie Baker – the four Lady Griz seniors – with the Big Sky championship trophy

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Ali and Kenzie

 

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