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History lessons are not on the Montana Grizzlies' syllabus this week.

There's no talk of the Grizzlies' early exits from the Big Sky Conference postseason the last two years. Not even as motivation for Saturday's quarterfinal matchup against Northern Arizona (7:05 p.m., Dahlberg Arena).

Two years ago, the Griz were knocked out in the quarterfinals 67-65 by Idaho State in Pocatello. Then last year ...

"Oooooo, don't bring that up," senior Anthony Johnson said of Montana's 56-54 home loss to Montana State in the quarterfinals. "I think a lot of us forgot about that.

"It's hard to forget about it, but we're a different team now - different players, different chemistry. If guys are thinking about that then guys aren't as focused as they should be."

Junior center Brian Qvale agreed.

"No, I haven't heard anything about it," Qvale said. "We have Northern Arizona on the table next, that's it."

Take a deep breath

And exhale, Griz fans.

A bad cough limited Qvale to 15 minutes of court time in last Saturday's 73-67 home loss to the Bobcats.

Qvale says he's 100 percent this week.

"I feel much better," he said following Thursday's practice. "I was having trouble breathing. If I would breathe deep I would just start coughing."

Qvale said watching his team lose to its rival was tough.

"It was a great crowd, good to see all those people in here," Qvale said of the nearly 7,000 fans packed into Dahlberg. "It was frustrating, to be sure. I watched a lot of a game that I wished I could be playing in."

Qvale also revealed he'll need postseason surgery - to have his tonsils out.

Temper, temper

The Grizzlies had a spirited, but loose practice Thursday, despite a couple of mild - by his standards - admonishments by assistant coach Bill Evans.

The Griz had a spirited, but chippy practice on Tuesday, then a day off on Wednesday.

"Things were getting intense," Qvale said of Tuesday's workout. "It happens in the middle of battling each other every day. We're just trying to push each other to the limit."

Johnson said Tuesday's practice was "a little rough.

"Guys were getting in each other's heads, getting in each other's faces; it's stuff we need in order to be successful. You don't want too much chippiness, but you can settle for guys having an attitude and playing that way. If we keep that going we can do something special."

Guardedly optimistic

Of the 17 players named to the All-Big Sky Conference team on Wednesday, 13 were guards.

"This was the year of the guards, I guess," said Johnson, who was a unanimous pick for the second straight season. "That's not to say there weren't big men out there who were handling their business. I guess they got overshadowed by the guards."

Montana coach Wayne Tinkle has a soft spot in his heart for big men, like himself.

"It's as good as it's been as far as the depth of talented guards all the way through the honorable mention team," Tinkle said. "We want to continue on along those lines, but being a big guy, we need to make sure in years to come that we get big guys that we can utilize down there as well."

Northern Arizona coach Mike Adras, the dean of Big Sky coaches in his 11th season, was surprised by the number.

"Wow, I didn't even realize that, to be honest with you," Adras said. "They dominate the ball. You look at the 3-point shot in our league versus other leagues and we shoot it a heckuva lot more. Those are the guys who are going to get the statistics.

"I guess that's a reflection that it's a guard-dominated league."

Youth is served

Eastern Washington guard Glen Dean was named the league's freshman of the year on Wednesday, but there was no shortage of viable candidates.

Some of the others on the short list were Montana's Will Cherry, Northern Arizona's Gabe Rogers, Sac State's John Dickson and Eastern Washington's other two frosh, Jeffrey Forbes and Kevin Winford.

Guess what they all have in common? They're guards.

Adras hasn't seen anything like it.

"Not in one class," he said. "We've had years where we've struggled to find who should be the freshman of the year.

"And when you look at (league MVP) Damian Lillard (of Weber State) and he's just a sophomore, that's a good sign for our league. There are some really talented youngsters in this league and it's nice to see."

Sports editor Bob Meseroll can be reached at 523-5265 or at


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