Baker is MVP, Nelson named first-team AC

OGDEN, Utah — The Big Sky Conference has announced the Women’s Basketball All-Conference team and individual award winners for the 2012-13 season. The awards were decided by a vote of the league’s 11 head coaches

Katie Baker became the ninth Montana player in Big Sky history to earn the league’s Most Valuable Player Award. The senior was a unanimous first-team selection. This is the third year in a row Baker has been named to the All-Conference first team.

Baker helped her team to the regular-season title and the right to host the Big Sky Conference Championship. She averages 13.6 points a game and 7.3 rebounds a game. Baker, a senior from Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, has four 20-plus point games, seven 10-plus rebound games, and has recorded seven double-doubles this season.

The first-team selections also include Montana transfer Lexie Nelson, a Butte High graduate.

Nelson averaged 14.3 points per game to lead the Eagles to third place in the conference. She shot 87 percent from the free throw line, dished out 64 assists, collected 23 steals and averaged 3.1 rebounds per game.

For the second year in a row, Northern Colorado’s D’shara Strange has been selected as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year. She was also named Outstanding Freshman the 2010-11 season. Strange, a junior from Fountain, Colo., ranks second in the conference averaging 15.0 points per game. She averages 7.2 rebounds a game, which ranks eighth in the conference. Strange was a unanimous First-Team selection.

Hayley Hodgins of Eastern Washington was named the league’s Outstanding Freshman, and Angela Misa of Portland State was selected as Top Newcomer. Hodgins, from Pasco, Wash., ranks eighth in the Big Sky in 3-point field goal percentage with .373. EWU hasn’t had a player named Outstanding Freshman since the 1992-93 season, when Kristy Missall was named. Misa, a junior from Oceanside, Calif., and transfer from Oregon State, ranks second in the Big Sky in rebounds as she averages 10.2 a game. She played her last game of the season on Feb. 9 before she was injured.

Montana’s Kenzie De Boer also made the first team.

Montana State’s Rachel Semansky took home second-team honors. Semansky, a senior, is the daughter of Butte native John Semansky. Her brother, Joe, had a standout senior season as a linebacker at Montana Tech last season.

The Big Sky Conference tournament will be March 13, 15-16 in Missoula.. The three quarterfinal games will be played on Wednesday starting at 3 p.m. Mountain. The winners of the quarterfinals will advance to the semifinals played on Friday starting at 11 a.m. And the championship will be played at 2 p.m. Mountain on Saturday. All games can be seen for Free on Big Sky TV with Peter Young and Jay McMillin having the call.

First Team: Katie Baker, Montana; Lexie Nelson, Eastern Washington; Kenzie De Boer, Montana; Amy Patton, Northern Arizona; D’shara Strange, Northern Colorado and Kylie Kuhns, Sacramento State

Second Team: Kaela Oakes, Idaho State; Ashleigh Vella, Idaho State; Lauren Oosdyke, Northern Colorado; Rachel Semansky, Montana State and Courtney VanBrocklin, Portland State

Honorable Mention:  Carrie Ojeda, Eastern Washington; Madi Buck, North Dakota; Angela Misa, Portland State; Fantasia Hilliard, Sacramento State; Alle Moreno, Sacramento State and Hailey Mandelko, Southern Utah

— Big Sky Conference