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Frontier Notebook: Lights, Skylights move up in NAIA Polls

Frontier Conference Notebook

 

February 26, 2014

Lindsay Brown

Montana State University-Northern senior Allan Brown calls out a play during last week's Frontier Conference game against Dickinson State in Havre. The Lights and Skylights are home for Frontier playoff games this weekend.

That’s it and that’s that. The 2013-14 Frontier Conference regular season came to an end on Saturday night, and it was one of the wildest Frontier season’s in recent memory. And that’s putting it mildly.

After winning the Frontier postseason title last spring, the Rocky Mountain College Battlin’ Bears followed it up with a men’s Frontier regular season title. Despite losing Saturday night in Great Falls, the Bears’ win at Montana State University-Northern last Friday night clinched the title and the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Frontier playoffs. Rocky finished at 12-4 which means in four of the last five seasons, the league champion has had three or more losses.

And this year parity in the Frontier created one of the closest men’s races ever. Northern could have tied for a share of the league title with a win over the Bears Friday night, while the standings came down to the Westminster/Montana Tech finale Saturday night. The Griffins lost at Lewis-Clark State last Thursday, but rallied to beat Tech in Butte. That pushed them into a tie with Northern for second place, but Westminster snagged the No. 2 seed in the playoffs as a result of having swept the Lights during the regular season.

And on and on it went. Western, which claimed last season’s regular season title, and was picked to finish first this season, fell to No. 4 after struggling in February. UGF and LC State battled for the last two spots in the playoffs, and though the Argos knocked off the Bears in their regular season finale, the Warriors finished the season winning three of their last four to grab the No. 5 seed.

Tech was improved this season, as was Carroll, but neither team was good enough to keep pace with the top six teams, which beat up on each other throughout the season. Dickinson State finished last this year, and will depart the Frontier having won just eight conference games in two seasons as a member.

On the women’s side, Westminster completed an impressive perfect conference slate. The Griffins were rarely challenged and in fact, won 12 of their 16 Frontier games by 10 or more points. LC State was equally impressive. After winning just nine games all of last season, a young LCSC team rebounded to go 12-3 in league play, earning the No. 2 seed. LCSC did not travel to Dickinson State this season.

Meanwhile, the league race was pretty close after that, but the MSU-Northern Skylights were a step ahead of the rest. Northern started conference play strong, and after the first three weeks, held the No. 3 spot the rest of the way. Down the stretch, UM-Western, which reeled off seven straight wins at one point, pushed the Skylights, but Northern swept its final games against DSU and Rocky, while Western lost its last two on the road to finish 8-8.

There was a three-way tie for fifth with UGF, Carroll and Tech all finishing 7-9. But UGF won its last three games, including beating Carroll last Thursday, and that gave the Argos the five side, while Carroll’s 70-68 win over DSU last Friday, coupled with Tech’s loss at home to Westminster on Saturday night, sent the Saints to the playoffs and left Tech as the odd team out. DSU finished at 4-11 in league play, but was a much better team than its record indicated, while RMC suffered through its worst women’s season in a long, long time. Rocky didn’t win a conference game, and ended the season on a 15-game losing streak.

In the final regular season NAIA Coaches Polls, the Skylights rose one spot to No. 21 while the Lights stayed at No. 18 but received more points than last week.

Then and Now

It’s always interesting to see where the standings end up and compare them to the Frontier Preseason Coaches Polls.

On the women’s side, Westminster lived up to its No. 1 billing, but Carroll was picked second and wound up tied for fifth. Western was picked third and finished fourth, while LCSC and Tech were picked to finish in a tie for fourth. The Warriors came in second while the Orediggers finished tied for fifth. The Skylights and Argos made the biggest jumps. MSU-N was picked sixth and finished third while UGF was picked seventh and tied for fifth. Rocky was picked eighth and finished ninth, while DSU was picked last and finished eighth.

Western was picked to win the men’s title this season, but tumbled to fourth. League champion RMC was picked second in the poll, while Northern was picked third and finished tied second. LC State was picked fourth and finished fifth, while Westminster was picked fifth and wound up second. Predictions for UGF were on the money as the Argos were picked sixth and wound up right there at the end. The rest of the coaches poll was right, too, as Tech, Carroll and DSU finished in the order the coaches voted them in before the season began.

League Leaders

Many different players put up huge numbers this season, and it should lead to several of those Frontier stars earning NAIA All-American honors.

UGF’s Erin Legel and Lindsey Abramson dominated the stats on the women’s side. Legel won the scoring title averaging 19 points per game, and she also led the league in assists at six per night. Abramson finished second to Legel in scoring, but led the Frontier in rebounds at 12 per game, and she also was tops in blocks, with 34. LCSC’s Brittaney Niebergall led the league in steals with three per game and 80 for the season.

MSU-Northern’s A’Jha Edwards finished second to Abramson in rebounding at 10 per game, and she led the Skylights and was ninth in the league in scoring at 13 points per outing. She was also second to Abramson in double-doubles with 12, while Abramson had 16 and she was second in blocks as well with 27.

Team-wise, LCSC’s 76 points per game led the league on offense. MSU-N led the Frontier in scoring defense at 52 points per contest. MSU-N also paced the Frontier in rebounding margin, averaging six more boards than its opponents throughout the season. Nationally, Northern is first in scoring defense, third in defensive rebounding, 17th in rebounding margin and 19th in scoring margin. The Skylights averaged 10 points more than their opponent for the regular season.

UGF senior Marcel Towns captured the men’s scoring title for the second straight season. Towns averages 21 points per game, while Rocky’s Joel Barndt averaged nine boards per night and led the league in rebounding for the second year in a row. RMC’s Sian Lane led the league in assists (4 apg), while Towns paced the Frontier in steals, averaging three per game and totaling 86 for the year. Westminster’s Tallon Robertson led the way with 38 blocks.

Senior Alfie Miller led Northern and was 14th in the Frontier at 14 points per game. Corbin Pearson was 18th at 12 points per night and led the Lights in rebounding. Miller also led the Frontier with 93 3-pointers and 3-point shooting. He shot 48 percent from beyond the arc for the season.

LCSC led a high-scoring Frontier by scoring 90 points per night. Rocky also nearly averaged 90 per game. Northern led the league in scoring defense at 62 points per game, while the Lights were also tops in all 3-point shooting categories. In the NAIA, the Lights ranked third in total 3-pointers with 271, fourth in scoring defense, fifth in 3-point percentage, eighth in defensive rebounding, eighth in 3-pointers made per game, ninth in assist/turnover ratio, 13th in free-throw percentage, 19th in scoring margin and 19th in turnover margin.

NAIA Women's Coaches Poll

Rn. Prv. Rec. Pts.

1 1 Vanguard (Calif.) (10) 23-0 250

2 2 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 27-1 242

3 3 Westminster (Utah) 22-2 234

4 5 Campbellsville (Ky.) 25-3 226

5 6 Oklahoma City 19-3 218

6 4 Oklahoma Baptist 24-4 207

7 7 The Master's (Calif.) 21-6 202

8 8 Georgetown (Ky.) 19-6 194

9 10 Wiley (Texas) 25-2 181

10 11 Our Lady of the Lake 23-3 177

11 9 Westmont (Calif.) 17-8 168

12 12 Columbia (Mo.) 22-6 166

13 13 Baker (Kan.) 22-5 159

14 15 MidAmerica Nazarene 21-3 148

15 T16 Lewis-Clark State 25-4 133

16 T16 John Brown (Ark.) 21-6 126

17 14 Hope International 19-8 116

18 19 Talladega (Ala.) 22-3 115

19 18 Bethel (Tenn.) 20-8 108

20 21 Lyon (Ark.) 20-7 95

21 22 MSU-Northern 20-8 87

22 24 Wayland Baptist (Texas) 17-10 81

23 23 Cumberlands (Ky.) 18-9 78

24 T25 Mobile (Ala.) 19-7 66

25 T25 Xavier (La.) 19-9 60

Others Receiving Votes: Central Methodist (Mo.) 37; Loyola 9La.) 29; Martin Methodist (Tenn.) 28; Langston (Okla.) 20; Shawnee State (Ohio) 19; William Woods (Mo.) 13; Benedictine (Kan.) 6; Southern Poly (Ga.) 5.

NAIA Men's Coaches Poll

Rn. Prv. Rec. Pts.

1 1 Cal State San Marcos (9) 27-1 250

2 2 Pikeville (Ky.) (1) 25-2 242

3 3 William Carey (Miss.) 22-2 234

4 7 Columbia (Mo.) 26-2 225

5 4 SAGU (Texas) 23-4 217

6 5 Freed-Hardeman (Tenn.) 24-3 208

7 8 Emmanuel (Ga.) 24-2 200

8 6 Talladega (Ala.) 23-5 191

9 11 Benedictine (Kan.) 20-6 183

10 9 Vanguard (Calif.) 22-5 179

11 10 Rocky Mountain 21-7 174

12 13 LSU Shreveport (La.) 19-6 160

13 14 Xavier (La.) 20-7 153

14 16 Georgetown (Ky.) 20-8 140

15 12 Culver-Stockton (Mo.) 20-6 136

16 25 Arizona Christian 21-6 131

17 RV Oklahoma City 16-9 105

18 18 MSU-Northern 23-7 104

19 RV Evangel (Mo.) 20-8 102

20 23 St. Gregory's (Okla.) 20-7 100

21 21 Westminster (Utah) 18-11 93

22 RV Our Lady of the Lake 19-8 90

23 RV St. Catharine (Ky.) 17-9 65

24 RV Lindenwood-Belleville 20-7 64

25 RV Biola (Calif.) 16-12 63

Others Receiving Votes: Concordia (Calif.) 42; Wiley (Texas) 39; Wayland Baptist (Texas) 28; Edward Waters (Fla.) 18; Belhaven (Miss.) 11; MidAmerica Nazarene (Kan.) 10; Campbellsville (Ky.) 9; Martin Methodist (Tenn.) 7; St. Thomas (Texas) 6; Life (Ga.) 3.

 

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