Lady Bison prepare to run away with 3rd straight title
As the Salish Kootenai College Lady Bison prepare for their title defense, they will be missing a major piece of the puzzle that helped them solve the AIHEC National Basketball Championship three of the past four years.
The Lady Bison will be without Carla McLean, their 6-foot center and go-to-girl in all three of their championship drives.
“The last few years, when Carla played, whenever we got stuck, it was like get the ball in to Carla and clear out and Carla did her thing,” said SKC coach Juan Perez.
Without having the luxury of that one player that can get them out of any jam, Perez said it’s going to take a collective effort if his new-look Lady Bison wants to continue their recent dominance at the AIHEC tournament, which they will host.
“If we’re going to repeat, we’re going to have more than one or two girls to go to. We need more of the girls to step up. When we’re struggling we need them to step up and take the lead on the court,” Perez said.
Though he said it’s a little weird not having McLean on the court and will take some time to adjust to, he believes he has a team that can contend for the championship.
Perez will lean heavily on the leadership of Dani Augare. Augare was the co-captain on last year’s championship team and has teamed up with McLean as the Lady Bison’s one-two punch in the past two championships.
Charla Brown, a 5-foot-3 guard from Polson, has also been on the court for the Lady Bison’s last two championships.
“She brings a lot of leadership on the court,” Perez said of Brown, who can play point guard and shooting guard. “She’s been through the system, she knows what it takes and I hope she steps up and take’s that leadership role out there.”
Genevieve Cochran, a 5-foot-9 forward, was the Lady Bison’s defensive specialist last season and one of their leading rebounders. With the graduation of McLean, Perez said that Cochran will have to take on more of the scoring role, but he doesn’t want her to abandon her gritty style of play.
“We’re still looking for her to do the dirty work. Were still looking for her to shutdown the other team’s best offensive player,” Perez said.
Kyani Murphy is the only other returning player.
Listed at 5-foot-9, the forward from Ovando is one of the Lady Bison's tallest players. Perez said that Murphy is also one of their fastest players.
“She brings a lot of speed. She’s very fast and she goes after the ball,” Perez said of Murphy.
Leandra Thomas, a 5-foot-6 guard from Fort Belknap, leads a talented cast of newcomers for the Lady Bison. Perez said that Thomas is a hard worker that has a knack for scoring.
Tamberly Wagner, a 5-foot-9, forward from Browning, gives the Lady Bison another threat down low and can also knock down the outside shot.
Perez has been impressed with his two new guards at practice. He said Miranda Joe really has a handle on the game and Allison Greybull is a real aggressive player with a lot of speed and isn’t afraid to drive to the basket.
In just a few weeks of working with McLean, Priscilla Raven, a 6-foot-5 center from, Commerce City, Colo., has shown a lot of improvement.
Without McLean and with a lot of new players, Perez said they will have to change the way they play and it may take a while for the Lady Bison to hit their stride, but there’s little doubt that come the middle of March they’ll be ready for their title defense.
“Once they understand what they need to do, we’re going to be more of a running team; we’re going to be a more aggressive team,” Perez said. “It’s just a matter of getting all these new girls to work together and figure out what they need to do on the court.”