Strange pick leads Bears' four All-Big Sky selections
By SCOTT WARD
OGDEN, Utah -- The best defensive player in Big Sky Conference women's basketball laces 'em up at Northern Colorado.
That same player, who earned Monday two acknowledgements of her elite status during the 2011-12 season, is also just as sophomore.
Watch out Big Sky.
D'shara Strange is good—real good—and she'll be around for two more seasons.
The Big Sky Conference announced Monday its women's basketball postseason honors for the 2011-12 season, and Strange, a second-year player out of Fountain, was chosen as the league's defensive player of the year. She was also a unanimous selection to the league's 2011-12 All-Big Sky Conference First Team.
Strange is the only underclassmen listed among the First or Second Team players, and she earned the accolades alongside teammates Kaisha Brown, a senior, and Lauren Oosdyke, a junior, who received Honorable Mention.
Counting Strange's pair of awards, Northern Colorado had four honorees among Monday's list of 22 players.
That's not a surprise, though. The Bears and coach Jaime White were the second-best team in the Big Sky this regular season (19-10 overall record, 11-5 mark in league contests) and enter this week's Big Sky Conference Women's Basketball Championship as the No. 2 seed, behind tournament host and regular-season champion Idaho State.
The Bears, who were also the second seed in last year's Big Sky Championship, are just two wins away from their first NCAA Tournament appearance. They will begin Championship play with the semifinal on Friday night, and if they are to win their and again on Saturday in the final, they will need strong play from everyone in their game day rotation.
They'll likely need Strange, however, to be everything she has been this season—and more.
Last year she was picked as the Big Sky's Outstanding Freshman, and she also earned Honorable Mention consideration. This year she led Northern Colorado in scoring (14.0 points per game), rebounds (8.9) and assists (2.7) and ranked third in the Big Sky in rebounds and tied for second in steals (2.5).
Monday's announcement gives Northern Colorado a second straight Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year (Courtney Stoermer, 2011) and a third straight All-Big Sky First Team Selection.
She joins Oosdyke, who earned a First Team honor last season, and Whitley Cox, a 2009-10 First Team winner.
Brown's Honorable Mention nod was the first All-Big Sky honor of her three-year career. She ranked in the top 20 in the league in scoring average (11.3) and was third in three-point shooting percentage (37.6 percent).
She finished the regular season as one of just nine players in Big Sky Conference history to have made at least 200 threes in their career, and she currently sits in a tie for sixth in league history with 206 career deep shots.
Brown also owns the Northern Colorado record for consecutive games with a 3-pointer (16 and counting) and scored a areer-best 26 points in a late-February win at Weber State.
After earning a spot on last season's All-Big Sky First Team, some might consider Oosdyke's third season with the Bears something short of a success. But that would be a bad consideration.
Oosdyke became this season just the 16th player in school history to score 1,000 career points and currently sits in 12th with 1,055 points. She finished second on Northern Colorado in scoring average (12.7 points per game) and ranked third in the Big Sky in shooting percentage (48 percent).
She was also 12th in the league in rebounds per game (6.6) and was always one of the best frontcourt players on the floor whenever Northern Colorado played this season.
The 2011-12 Big Sky Conference Women's Basketball Championship will begin Thursday, March 8, and continue to Saturday, March 10. All games (quarterfinals, semifinals, final) will be played at Reed Gym in Pocatello, Idaho.
Strange, Brown, Oosdyke and the rest of the Bears, thanks to their second-place, regular-season finish, have a bye through to the Championship semifinals. They will play Friday night, March 9, against either No. 3-seed Eastern Washington, No. 4-seed Montana State or No. 5-seed Montana.
Northern Colorado cannot play No. 6-seed Sacramento State, should it advance.
Most Valuable Player: Brianne Ryan, Sr., Eastern Washington
Defensive Player of the Year: D'shara Strange, So., Northern Colorado
Top Newcomer: Kate Lanz, So., Portland State
Outstanding Freshman: Fantasia Hilliard, Sacramento State
#@Brianne Ryan, Eastern Washington, Sr., Guard
Kaela Oakes, Idaho State, Jr., Guard
Chelsea Pickering, Idaho State, Sr., Guard
#Katie Baker, Montana, Jr., Forward
#Katie Bussey, Montana State, Sr., Guard
#D'shara Strange, Northern Colorado, So., Guard
#Unanimous First Team selection @ Two-time selection
Chene Cooper, Eastern Washington, Sr., Guard
Rachel Semansky, Montana State, Jr., Forward
Amy Patton, Northern Arizona, Jr., Guard
Eryn Jones, Portland State, Sr., Guard
Kylie Kuhns, Sacramento State, Jr., Forward
Honorable Mention: Ashleigh Vella, Idaho State; Kenzie De Boer, Montana; Lauren Oosdyke, Northern Colorado; Kaisha Brown, Northern Colorado; Kate Lanz, Portland State; Alle Moreno, Sacramento State and Amanda Hughes, Weber State