MISSOULA — One way to win 23 games and make a program’s 26th national tournament: have a co-MVP backcourt and a senior leader in the frontcourt who excels at the intangibles.
Anaconda senior guard Torry Hill and junior guard Kellie Cole shared Montana’s Mary Louise Pope Zimmerman Most Valuable Player award and senior forward Jordan Sullivan was named the Shannon Green Most Inspirational Player and the Theresa Rhoads Award winner for best exemplifying Lady Griz basketball at the team’s postseason banquet recently.
Junior Carly Selvig was named the newly christened Julie Deming Outstanding Defensive Player, and sophomore McCalle Feller collected the award for Most Improved Player.
The honored players helped lead Montana to a 23-11 record last winter and a spot in the Women’s National Invitation Tournament, where the Lady Griz advanced to the round of 32.
The Lady Griz went 14-6 in Big Sky Conference play to finish in third place, one game behind regular-season co-champions North Dakota and Southern Utah. Montana lost at UND in the Big Sky tournament championship game.
Sullivan, who this spring was named the winner of the Little Sullivan Award and Grizzly Cup, became the first player in Lady Griz history to win both the Most Inspirational and Theresa Rhoads awards in the same season. The former is the only team award voted on strictly by the players.
She also received the Most Inspirational Award following her sophomore season.
Sullivan, who has a 3.88 GPA, was a two-time Big Sky player of the week last season and a second-team All-Big Sky selection at regular season’s end. She averaged 11.6 points per game, third on the team behind Cole and Hill, and led the team in rebounding (7.8/g), hustle plays and floor burns.
“That was great recognition for Jordan for what she did for the team for four years,” said UM coach Robin Selvig. “She was the epitome of what you hope Lady Griz basketball players are. She is a great student, tremendous in the community, a good player and a great teammate.
“Nobody worked harder in the offseason or during the season at every practice. When you’re recruiting future Lady Griz, if they have some of Jordan’s qualities, you’re going to be pretty excited about them.”
Hill and Cole both played pivotal roles in 2013-14. Hill did what was expected of a senior point guard, and Cole was the player Montana needed to emerge to help fill the void left by three lost starters the season before.
Hill adeptly balanced the dual role of distributor and scorer as a senior. She averaged 12.8 points, a career high by more than three points per game, and dished out a career-high 155 assists (4.8/g).
She was voted honorable mention All-Big Sky, and whether she meant to or not, she took any feeling of being slighted by the league’s coaches out on three of their teams at the Big Sky tournament.
Hill averaged 20 points on 52.7 percent shooting and 4.7 assists over three games to lead the Lady Griz to tournament wins over Montana State and Southern Utah in the tournament quarterfinals and semifinals, and she was the best player on the floor against North Dakota in the championship game.
Her season and career came to an unceremonious end when she suffered a knee injury in the second half of the title game, and the lasting image of Hill’s late-season tour de force will be of her hobbling out to receive her all-tournament award, with the North Dakota fans standing as one in appreciation.
Cole averaged 5.8 points as a redshirt freshman and 5.6 as a redshirt sophomore as a reserve off the bench. As a first-time starter as a redshirt junior in 2013-14, Cole’s numbers jumped significantly across the board.
She averaged a team-high 14.1 points and 5.0 rebounds and became Montana’s go-to scoring threat, particularly once the Big Sky Conference schedule began.
The three-time Big Sky player of the week opened league play with four straight 20-point scoring games and finished with a conference scoring average of 15.6 to earn first-team All-Big Sky honors.
“We were junior-senior at the guard, which always helps, and both Kellie and Torry had great years,” Selvig said. “It was nice to see them both get recognized.
“Kellie stepped up and had a great year and became our most consistent scorer. And Torry did what you hope a senior point guard does. She took care of the ball and got it to people, and then she finished with a flourish with a high-scoring tournament.”
Considering she was the Big Sky’s defensive player of the year, it was no surprise Selvig won the same team award, this year named for the late Julie Deming, who played for the Lady Griz from 1999 to 2004.
Selvig had 27 more blocked shots than any other player in the Big Sky, and her defense in the paint helped Montana hold opponents to a league-low 63.4 points per game and 37.9 percent shooting.
Her 88 blocks tied the Montana single-season record, held by Hollie Tyler, and her average of 2.7 blocks per game ranked 20th in the nation.
“That was a no-brainer for the team,” Selvig said. “Carly is someone who loves to play defense and takes a lot of pride in it.
“She set the tone for us in many games with what she did on the defensive end. She was able to neutralize good post players and take away the inside game of the other team. Just playing head-to-head, Carly was able to neutralize some really good scorers.”
Not much was known of McCalle Feller after a freshman season in 2012-13 that saw her score just eight points in 17 games.
But she was the surprise of the team’s preseason scrimmages last fall with her scoring and hot shooting, and she continued to improve as the 2013-14 season wore on, making her the team’s fifth award winner.
Feller played more than 18 minutes per game after totaling just 66 for the entirety of her freshman season. She averaged 5.7 points and had 38 assists on the season against just 26 turnovers, a number that might come as a surprise considering the abandon Feller brought off the bench.
“McCalle really got everyone’s attention when we started practice last year. It was obvious she had worked hard on her game in the offseason,” Selvig said. “And she steadily improved in a number of areas during the year and got into the picture big time based on those improvements.
“She didn’t turn the ball over and got better defensively all the time. She didn’t always shoot it as well as she can, but the way she scored it expanded. Early on it was all about the three. Later she was hitting dribble jumpers and getting to the hole now and then.”
Montana losses only Hill and Sullivan to graduation. The Lady Griz signed guard Maddie Keast of Missoula and guard Sierra Anderson of Mill Creek, Wash., to National Letters of Intent in November.
— Montana Sports Information