Celebration of Native Americans’ connection with Montana Lady Griz to take place this week | SWX now

MISSOULA — The Lady Griz women’s basketball program will host special events this weekend to celebrate Montana’s long and rich history with Native Americans.

It’s all part of an important two-game homestand that ends at 7 p.m. Thursday when Montana hosts Big Sky Conference leaders Sacramento State. The Hornets have an impressive 6-1 lead in league play while UM are at 4-4 and hungry to end a two-game slingshot.

The Lady Griz will then host Portland State in their first N7 game at 2 p.m. Saturday. The N7 program is a Nike initiative led by Sam McCracken of Fort Peck, a member of the Sioux and Assiniboine tribe, and focuses on Nike’s commitment to inspiring two million Native American and Aboriginal youth in North America and to enable them to participate in sports and physical activity.

Montana will wear custom-made uniforms in the primary color of turquoise, which symbolizes friendship and camaraderie in Native American cultures. The Lady Griz will also sport a logo designed by UM alum Benji Headswift, a member of the Northern Cheyenne Tribe.

Between the two games there will be a free screening of the documentary The House That Rob Built on Friday at 7pm at Dahlberg Arena. Directed by former Lady Griz player Megan Harrington, the film tells the story of Montana’s legendary former women’s basketball coach, Robin Selvig. It also delves into the history of Native American basketball in the state of Montana.

At least five former Lady Griz players who are Native Americans will be present for this special weekend and will be recognized along with Selvig during Saturday’s N7 game. The roster includes Malia Kipp (Blackfeet), Tamara Guardipee (Blackfeet), Simarron Schildt (Blackfeet), LeAnn Montes (Chippewa Cree), and Corrie Villegas McDonald (Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes).

was january a roller coaster ride for Lady Griz. The ride actually started on New Year’s Eve when the team lost in Idaho. That started a two-game slide, followed by a three-game winning streak, followed by two home losses last week.

The past week has been an especially rough one for Montana’s top scorers and leaders Carmen Gfeller and Sammy Fatkin. Both average about 13 points per game but have been held to 20 points in losses to Eastern Washington and Montana State.

“You can’t have performances like that from your three seniors and expect to win a big game,” said Montana coach Brian Holsinger, alluding to reserving Katerina Tsineke along with Gfeller and Fatkin.

“Do credit to the state (Montana),” he added, referring to Saturday’s 72-63 loss. “For whatever reason, our three seniors didn’t play properly. That means being aggressive and having the right attitude. I didn’t feel like they did that.”

Montana needs to improve on the defensive end to turn things around. The Lady Griz ranks ninth out of 10 teams in Big Sky and allows an average of 72 points per game in the league.

Sacramento State (15-3 overall) leads the conference defensively, allowing 57 points per game. Portland State (4-3, 9-8) ranks fourth, allowing 60.7 per game.

The Lady Griz will play five of their eight February games away from home, so getting two wins this week is crucial.

“We have to clarify that,” said Holsinger. “We’re too talented to throw games away. It’s disappointing because we’re a lot better than we’ve ever played.”

Bill Speltz is a sports editor in Missoulian and has been a Sunday columnist for the past 16 years. Do you have a story idea? email invoice [email protected].