BILLINGS — Work began before the sun was up and many times, if a repair needed to be made, didn’t end until after dark settled over the vast eastern Montana landscape.
A thousand acres of hay and wheat wait for no one.
If time allowed, Alecia Chamberlin would do some running or a video workout.
And when she was back home in Miles City, there was always time carved out for the gym. With mother Jen and younger sister Dez serving as rebounders — “They didn’t mind,” Chamberlin said — she would put herself through a series of drills that included pull-up jumpers and 3-pointers mixed in with some movement work.
“I feel you have to work to keep up with the competition,” Chamberlin explained. “If you slack off, you fall behind … and you can’t.”
It defines the Rocky Mountain College senior guard.
That work ethic shows in her tenacious defense on the court where combining strength and acumen, Chamberlin alters the opponent’s plans.
“My role is lock-down defender. I don’t want to get scored on,” she said, working into a small smile. “Defense is what gets you going. If you get some stops, it adds that much more to the game.”
Chamberlin is the leader for a Rocky Mountain College women’s basketball team that will be playing in its third consecutive NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball Championship on Thursday at Rimrock Auto Arena.
The No. 20 ranked Battlin' Bears (21-12) play No. 16 Shawnee State (24-9) at 6:15 p.m.
An athletic 5-foot-10, Chamberlin is a first-team all-Frontier Conference selection and was selected the league’s Defensive Player of the Year by the coaches.
“She sets the tone how hard she plays all the time,” said Rocky head coach Wes Keller. “I honestly don’t think she’s ever taken a possession off.”
A complementary offensive player her first three seasons, Chamberlin has also become the team’s leading scorer this year. She is averaging 11.5 points a game.
“We’ve asked her to take more of the scoring load,” Keller added.
The left-handed Chamberlin also leads the team in steals and free throws made and is second for rebounding and assists.
She also tries to lead the team in every drill. “Yeah, I’m competitive,” Chamberlin said with another smile. “Playing cards with the family competitive.
“I just like the competition part of it,” she continued about basketball. “If you’re stressed, you can go to the gym and practice. You can work hard at that. Sometimes in practice I get frustrated, I feel like I’m not doing as much as I can to help. Then I key on something … I just want to finish first in the sprints.”
An all-state selection in basketball and volleyball, Chamberlin missed her entire junior season at Miles City after suffering a torn ACL in her right knee. That didn’t stop her from being Keller’s first four-year high school recruit.
“She played extremely hard,” said Keller of his recruiting interest.
Chamberlin spent the first two months of this past summer working hay and wheat on land owned by the grandparents of her boyfriend Garrett Gaskill. They’ve been dating since high school.
“Mostly June and July,” Chamberlin said. “We would get up around 4 a.m. and the work would sometimes go into the night. If something broke down, you would have to go into town.”
Chamberlin said Jordan was 40 miles away and Miles City a 90-minute drive.
Now she will be playing in her third NAIA Tournament.
“The atmosphere,” Chamberlin said of what she likes most. “There is usually so many people.”
Chamberlin, a small business management major, was also the one constant in an ever-revolving Rocky lineup because of injuries. She started the first 31 games before missing the Frontier Conference Tournament semifinal game against Carroll because of a right foot injury.
“My foot is getting better,” she said. “I’ll play. Senior year, you don’t want to miss anything.”