Klose showing growth in junior year

Morgan Klose’s performance against Northern State on Friday wasn’t statistically remarkable.

In fact, Minot State University’s 5-foot-9 junior guard had a subpar shooting night – connecting on just 4 of 12 field goals.

But Klose remained involved in the game and gave the Beavers a couple of clutch baskets – a 3-pointer in the second half and a pull-up jumper in overtime to help MSU polish off a 75-68 victory.

A showing like that would’ve been unlikely last season, when Klose often lost her aggressiveness after missing consecutive shots. The Beavers’ most dangerous long-range threat had eight double-figure scoring games but six in which she didn’t record a single point.

Klose’s increased consistency has been vital to MSU’s 7-0 start. She has scored at least five points in every game and has flashed other skills as well. In Saturday’s win against Minnesota State-Moorhead, she dished out a career-high eight assists.

“She’s giving us more than shooting,” MSU coach Sheila Green Gerding said. “In the last couple of years, it seemed like if she wasn’t hitting shots, she wasn’t giving us anything. I think she’s defending, she’s rebounding, she’s passing the ball well, which is important to have on the court.”

Klose’s pursuit of playing time has helped her mature and become an indispensable cog on the team – regardless of whether her shots are falling. Despite her early struggles against Northern State, MSU’s coaching staff trusted her to play 38 minutes in the competitive contest.

“I knew all the coaches believed in me and (Green Gerding) told me all year I’m a junior, so I can’t miss a shot and cry about it,” Klose said. “I have to step up. I’ve gotten a lot more minutes because I haven’t disappeared so that’s probably what’s kept my head in it. You gotta keep shooting.”

The Beavers play their first road games of the season Friday at St. Cloud State and Saturday at Minnesota Duluth.

Local hoopsters shining for Tetons

Two additional inches of height have further stretched out Glenburn graduate Houston Lavachek’s gangly frame, but they’ve done nothing to harm his deadly shooting stroke.

The Williston State College freshman has shot up to nearly 6-foot-9 and is averaging 13.2 points per game as the starting small forward for the Tetons (9-2).

WSC coach Eric Peterson said Lavachek’s length and perimeter abilities make him a mismatch for most opponents. He’s knocked down a team-high 26 3-pointers at a 37 percent clip.

“He’s a tremendous perimeter shooter and he’s very tough to guard for other post players that we’ve played against just because he’s so skilled,” Peterson said. “He can put in on the floor, he can knock it down from 3, he can go in the lane and dunk on people.”

Peterson said Lavachek has earned several Division II offers and is receiving interest from Division I programs including North Dakota State, University of North Dakota, Montana, Montana State, Northern Colorado and Drake.

Peterson said four-year colleges are waiting to see if Lavachek can put on more weight and become more physical. Despite his late growth, the lanky swingman weighs about 185 pounds.

But it’s Lavachek’s inherent tools that are drawing attention in the first place.

“You can teach somebody to play defense and you can put weight on somebody, but you can’t teach the skills that he has,” Peterson said. “You usually get those at an early age and Houston’s just naturally talented like that.”

Minot High product Kyle Gerding has also earned his way into the Tetons’ rotation. The 6-foot-3 freshman guard has started five games and is putting up four points and 2.5 rebounds per contest.

“He’s probably the most consistent player that we have,” Peterson said. “He’s one of our best defenders, he knows his role and when he’s open for 3, he’ll usually knock it down. He’s also a team captain just because he’s such a great leader.”

The WSC women’s program is even more loaded with local talent.

Freshmen McKayla Haugeberg (Watford City), Jaylen Newman (Velva) and Emma Keller (Velva) have started every game for the 8-6 Tetons.

Haugeberg, a 5-foot-6 guard, averages a team-high 15.9 points per game and is second on the team with 5.9 boards per outing.

The 5-8 Keller and 6-foot Newman average 9.5 points apiece, and Newman hauls in a team-best 7.1 rebounds.

New Town graduate Taylor McGrady has started five games and puts up 6.5 points a night. She hit a game-winning 3-pointer Saturday, lifting WSC to an 80-79 victory over College of Southern Idaho.

Ray product Kendra Heier averages 4.2 points and 16.7 minutes off the bench.

WSC coach Luanne Axelson didn’t return messages seeking comment.

Daniel Allar covers college athletics. Follow him on Twitter @DAllar_MDN.