RENO, Nev. — Peyton Ferris was in Bozeman doing homework on Sunday when she found out she was selected the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball MVP.
During an interview at the team hotel here Tuesday morning, the day before her team plays its conference tournament opener Wednesday, Ferris called the honor “a full team award,” deflecting any individual credit for fulfilling a prediction made by the league’s media and coaches in the preseason.
In spite of her terrific season, Ferris doesn’t have much time right now to dwell on individual achievements. Especially after what happened at the Big Sky postseason tournament last year.
“Peyton’s not one for accolades at this point,” teammate and fellow senior Riley Nordgaard said. “We’re focused on winning games.”
A year ago, the top-seeded Bobcats were upset on a buzzer-beater in the quarterfinal round by upstart Idaho State. MSU made just 3 of 8 free throws in the final two minutes and saw a late lead evaporate.
The experience taught them the meaning of focus, and they’re taking that lesson into Wednesday’s quarterfinal matchup against Weber State.
“I think we’re carrying more momentum than we were last year, and people are feeling really good,” said Ferris, who led MSU to a share of its second consecutive regular-season crown. “We just have to carry that in and be confident and have a lot of aggressiveness and compete.
“We’re hoping we can go in there and finish a whole game. We’ve just got to be ready for whatever they’re going to throw at us, and keep our confidence and have the calm and collectedness that we’ve had all year through any situation.”
The Bobcats (22-6) and Wildcats (14-17) played each other in the final regular-season game of the year on Friday in Bozeman, so the matchup is fresh for both teams. MSU won that one 72-53. Ferris had 22 points and 10 rebounds.
On Monday, Weber State advanced to the tournament quarterfinals with a wild 98-97 overtime victory over Sacramento State. Deeshyra Thomas’ basket with two seconds left won it.
The Bobcats won both regular-season meetings against the Wildcats, but that doesn’t give MSU any misconceptions about the rubber match.
“We’re going to do our best to focus on us, to execute the things we want to do at a very high level and get settled in the Reno atmosphere,” Nordgaard said.
“Weber specifically, they’ve got a couple good shooters, they’ve got a couple good guards, and I think the main thing will be containment of transition and on-ball defense. And as always, a focus of ours will be to work pretty hard on the glass.”
“We know this is a dangerous team. They can really get hot from 3. They showed that (Monday),” MSU coach Tricia Binford said. “You just want to play to your strengths and be super consistent. All I know is we’re going to have to have a great 40 minutes.”
The Bobcats eclipsed 20 victories for the second straight season, which is a true feather in the cap of Binford and the program. But now it’s time to strike in the postseason while the iron is hot.
The Bobcats will lose Ferris, Nordgaard and reserve guard Margreet Barhoum to graduation. This is their last hurrah.
Nordgaard, for one, senses a different mindset from a season ago.
“I’m only going to speak for myself, but last year it was a really cool experience, the tournament feel,” she said. “There were a lot of external things for me personally.
“It’s funny coming back this year. There’s just a lot less allure to all of it. For me it’s a lot more focused, just being able to play basketball.”