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CROSSTOWN BASKETBALL: Sentinel, Big Sky set for showdown
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CROSSTOWN BASKETBALL: Sentinel, Big Sky set for showdown

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It's easy to charge the Missoula Big Sky girls' basketball team with being a one-woman show.

Probably because such allegations don't miss the mark by much.

But 6-foot-3 senior center Joslyn Tinkle has been getting plenty of help lately from a variety of sources, giving defending Class AA state champion Big Sky some bite to go with its bark.

Just how sharp those teeth are will get a stiff test Saturday when the undefeated Eagles host Missoula Sentinel to open Western AA play.

The crosstown battle, which tips off at 5:45 p.m., will be the opener of a doubleheader. The Sentinel and Big Sky boys play at 7:30.

Both games will be broadcast on the radio on KGRZ 1450 AM.

The Sentinel girls (2-0, 6-1) have a head start on Big Sky in conference, having already beaten Missoula Hellgate (60-35) and Kalispell Glacier (47-41).

The Eagles (0-0, 6-0), meanwhile, have only had one tough battle - a 45-34 nonconference victory at Butte, last season's foe in the state title game.

Tinkle, who has already announced she will play for Pac-10 power Stanford, has scored 30 or more points four times and carries a 26.5 scoring average into Saturday night's game.

But four other players have scored at least seven points in a game for Big Sky, including senior guard Brittany Sept, who became the first Eagle besides Tinkle to reach double figures when she tallied 10 against Columbia Falls on Jan. 3.

Six-foot junior Katie Showers has been the most consistent support for Tinkle, averaging 8 points from her forward position.

"I've been very impressed with how those kids have stepped up and filled the shoes of the kids we lost last year," said Marti Leibenguth, the head coach for Big Sky, which graduated four starters.

In Sentinel, the Eagles face a balanced attack with excellent long-range capability.

Senior guard Brette Rubie is an experienced ball-handler and the team's leading scorer at 11.7 points a game.

Junior Bryn Hasquet is one of the most dangerous Spartans from deep, but you have to keep an eye on nearly the entire team, Leibenguth said.

"Every one of those kids can shoot the ball from 3-point land on in," she said. "We have to know where they're at … you cannot leave them alone."

The matchup between the Big Sky and Sentinel boys is going to get one team off the schneid.

Both teams are coming off losses in their most recent outings. The Eagles fell to Columbia Falls 68-44 on Jan. 3 - a team the Spartans beat by 16 before the Christmas break - while Sentinel dropped a 76-67 decision to Kalispell Glacier on Thursday.

The Spartans, now 1-1 in league, 5-2 overall, are led by junior guard Kendal Maier's 20.6 points a game, while teammates Zach Wagenmann and Ben Roberts have consistently provided strong support.

It's the first league game for Big Sky, which is 3-3 overall. Senior guard Mike LaValley is the Eagles' leading scorer with a 14.2 average.

Big Sky coach Josh Laslovich said his team will be bolstered by the return of senior Spencer Powell, a starter from last season who will play his first game after sitting out the first six with a knee injury.

"We really worked this week on what we need to do to get better," Laslovich said. "I like our work ethic. This group trusts each other, and they're really unselfish."

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