Eight Dawgs gain conference basketball honors

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Eight members of the University of Montana Western’s basketball program gained honors last week when the Frontier Conference announced its allconference team memberships and individual award winners for men and women’s basketball.

University of Montana Western Lady Bulldogs Head Coach Lindsay Woolley earned his second consecutive Frontier Conference Women’s Basketball Head Coach of the Year trophy. He guided a team ravaged by graduations and picked to finish fifth in a preseason canvas of the league’s coaches to a spot on the league’s perch up until its final game.

The NAIA Coach of the Year for last season, when he took UMW to the national title, Woolley lost four starters to graduation in the off-season, but effectively worked program newcomers like Brynley Fitzgerald and Gracey Meyer into his rotation during the 2019–20 season to turn what looked like a rebuilding year into another successful campaign, with his Lady Bulldogs finishing 20-11 overall and 12-6 in the league, good for a second-place Frontier finish and final ranking of no. 19 in the NAIA.

Ball-hawking leader of the Lady Bulldogs’ predatory perimeter defense, Paige Holmes gained distinction as the Frontier Conference’s Defensive Player of the Year. The Seeley Lake product averaged 1.5 steals per game while helping her team rate 10th in the NAIA in scoring defense. A redshirt junior, Holmes also gained honorable mention all-league honors for a season in which she averaged 9.0 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists per game.

The Lady Bulldogs’ lone senior, Savanna Bignell earned a spot on the second unit of the All-Frontier Conference team, recording 10.1 points, 4.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals per game while providing invaluable leadership on a team full of newcomers.

One of those newcomers also played her way onto the all-league roster. UMW freshman Gracey Meyer grabbed a spot on the Frontier’s honorable mention team for her efforts in a season during which she averaged 9.6 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest. The 5-foot-11-inch forward grew more and more integral to her team as the season wore on, with the Lady Bulldogs often running their offense through Meyer at the high post and finding her in the low post for baskets.

The Montana Western men’s basketball team gained allleague honorable mention nods for three of its players.

Forward James Jones could have easily gotten a spot on the Frontier’s first or second team for his work during a season in which he finished fifth in the league in scoring (15.2 ppg) and fourth in assists (4.0 apg). But the junior ended up as an honorable mention, along with teammates Connor Burkhart and Cedric Boone.

A senior forward, Burkhart closed out his Bulldog career by leading his team in rebounding (5.9 rpg) and averaging 9.1 points per contest while providing the Dawgs’ main low post scoring threat.

Another senior, Boone averaged 14.2 points and 2.9 assists per game while acting as floor general for the Dawg offense from his point guard position.

Former Bulldog Zaccheus Darko-Kelly took Frontier Conference Men’s Basketball Player of the Year honors back to the University of Providence in Great Falls, while Lewis-Clark State Head Coach Austin Johnson won Coach of the Year for the league.

A senior forward for Rocky Mountain College, Markaela Francis gained selection as the Frontier women’s Player of the Year.