Baker unanimous All-Big Sky Conference selection

Kenzie De Boer

Kenzie De Boer

March 5, 2012

Montana junior Katie Baker was named first-team All-Big Sky Conference Monday in voting by the league's nine coaches, and junior Kenzie De Boer was named honorable mention.

Baker, who was also a first-team selection as a sophomore, was one of four unanimous selections on the six-player first team.

Regular-season champion Idaho State, which went 14-2 in Big Sky play and finished three games clear of second-place Northern Colorado, placed two players on the first team: senior Chelsea Pickering, who was also first team last season, and junior Kaela Oakes, honorable mention a season ago. Neither was a unanimous selection.

Eastern Washington's Brianne Ryan, who led the league in scoring (19.3/g) and helped the Eagles to a No. 3 seed at this week's Big Sky tournament, was voted Most Valuable Player and was a unanimous first-team pick.

Montana State senior Katie Bussey and Northern Colorado sophomore D'shara Strange were also unanimous first-team selections and rounded out the first team. Strange doubled up as the Defensive Player of the Year.

Baker was a first-team selection last season when she averaged 11.8 points and 7.3 rebounds per game. She averaged over seven rebounds (7.1/g) again this season and also upped her scoring average to 14.9, which ranked fourth in the conference.

Her increased scoring this season has mainly been the result of being more efficient offensively. Baker is shooting 45.4 percent as a junior, seventh in the Big Sky, after finishing last season at 39.2 percent.

Baker, who ranks second in the Big Sky in blocked shots (1.6/g), has been especially strong over the final three weeks of the regular season. She's scored 20 or more points in Montana's last four games on 49.2 percent shooting and has led the Lady Griz in scoring in all four.

Her impressive junior season has left her 19 points from 1,000 for her career entering this week's tournament.



"Katie has steadily improved from her freshman to her sophomore to her junior year," Lady Griz coach Robin Selvig said. "She's shooting it better this season, and she's become a better defender.

"She's just become more consistent this season, which is what we had hoped for."

Repeating was far from a certainty for Baker, because all six first-team selections from a year ago were back this season. Baker, Ryan and Pickering were the only three to repeat.

Portland State senior Eryn Jones, the 2010-11 MVP, and Montana State junior Rachel Semansky, first-teamers last season, were second-team selections. Lauren Oosdyke, also a first-teamer last season, was honorable mention this year.

Eastern Washington senior Chene Cooper, Northern Arizona junior Amy Patton and Sacramento State junior Kylie Kuhns rounded out the five-player second team.

"It's really hard to vote, because there are so many good players in the league right now," Selvig said. "There are nine teams, and you only get 11 votes.

"It's a really good group of players that make up the second team and honorable mention."

De Boer was one of seven players to make honorable mention, meaning they got at least one vote for first or second team.

De Boer has had a career year across the board. She is averaging 10.9 points and 3.4 rebounds per game and is on the short list of the Big Sky's best defenders. Her 70 steals were nearly twice as many as anyone else on the team and rank fourth in the Big Sky.

A solid 76.5 percent free throw shooter for her career entering the season, De Boer has knocked down 84.0 percent this season, the third-highest percentage in the Big Sky.

"Obviously Kenzie is a really good defender. I think, first and foremost, that's what sticks out to the other coaches. But she's also been better offensively this year, and her overall game has improved.

"I think she is very deserving," Selvig said.

Joining De Boer on the list of honorable mention selections were Oosdyke, Idaho State's Ashleigh Vella, Northern Colorado's Kaisha Brown, Portland State's Kate Lanz, Sacramento State's Alle Moreno and Weber State's Amanda Hughes.

Lanz, a transfer from Oregon State, was voted the league's Top Newcomer, Sacramento State's Fantasia Hilliard the Outstanding Freshman.

2011-12 All-Big Sky Conference Team

First Team
Player ... School ... Year ... Posn. ... Hometown
Brianne Ryan # ... Eastern Washington ... Sr. ... G ... Lynden, Wash.
Kaela Oakes ... Idaho State ... Jr. ... G ... Chandler, Ariz.
Chelsea Pickering ... Idaho State ... Sr. ... G ... Lumberton, Texas
Katie Baker # ... Montana ... Jr. ... F ... Coeur d' Alene, Idaho
Katie Bussey # ... Montana State ... Sr. ... G ... Alamosa, Colo.
D'shara Strange # ... Northern Colorado ... So. ... G ... Fountain, Colo.

# Unanimous selection

Second Team
Player ... School ... Year ... Posn. ... Hometown
Chene Cooper ... Eastern Washington ... Sr. ... G ... Puyallup, Wash.
Rachel Semansky ... Montana State ... Jr. ... F ... Highwood, Mont.
Amy Patton ... Northern Arizona ... Jr. ... G ... Tempe, Ariz.
Eryn Jones ... Portland State ... Sr. ... G ... Lynnwood, Wash.
Kylie Kuhns ... Sacramento State ... Jr. ... F ... Salem, Ore.

Honorable Mention: Ashleigh Vella, Idaho State; Kenzie De Boer, Montana; Lauren Oosdyke, Northern Colorado; Kaisha Brown, Northern Colorado; Kate Lanz, Portland State; Alle Moreno, Sacramento State and Amanda Hughes, Weber State

Most Valuable Player: Brianne Ryan, Sr., Eastern Washington
Defensive Player of the Year: D'shara Strange, So., Northern Colorado
Top Newcomer: Kate Lanz, So., Portland State
Outstanding Freshman: Fantasia Hilliard, Sacramento State

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