By Macy Ricketts
It’s 2016, and while many students’ New Year’s resolutions include improving their grades and finally using that gym membership, the Montana Tech Women’s basketball team has
just one resolution--to win.
While many Tech students are just getting ready to get back to school after a long break at home, the Tech women’s basketballers took a brief eight-day holiday before returning to campus for winter practices December 28. The bulk of the Frontier Conference play begins in January, and according to Junior guard Kimi Heng, a Brisbane, Australia transplant, conference games are where it’s all at.
“I think that our season is looking really good, especially after our big win against
[conference foe Lewis and Clark (LC) State December 5]. We want to prove people wrong so
we’ve been working hard in practice, making adjustments and are seeing improvements everyday,” Heng said. “The biggest thing for us is consistency--if we can continue to play at the levelwe have been recently, we’ll definitely be in good shape for the rest of the season.”According to Lady Diggers Head Coach Carly VanDyke, the Frontier Conference is aforce to be reckoned with on a national level.
“The Frontier Conference had five teams make it to the National tournament last year,”VanDyke said. “Again this year, the conference will be very competitive. We grew as a team during pre-season games and are looking forward to conference play.”
Thus far this season, excluding the Lady Diggers’ second matchup against LC State on January 2 and their double-header conference home games, which took place on January 7 and9*, Tech is 5-8. That record doesn’t display the Diggers’ impressive 5-1 record at home, whichis a stark contrast to their 0-6 record on the road. However, VanDyke isn’t worried about her team’s recent struggles in away games.
“Playing on the road is always tough,” VanDyke said. “We had several close [losses] tonationally ranked teams. We have a young team and we are learning to win close games.”
One of the Diggers’ highlights thus far in the season was their 83-57 drubbing of conference rival LC State December 5. During the contest, Junior guard Martha Dembek posteddouble-double numbers with 22 points and 16 rebounds. In addition, Dembek went 5-5 frombeyond the three point line. Even with her impressive performance, however, Dembek remains ateam player.“That was a team win,” Dembek, who earned Frontier Conference Honorable Mentionhonors last season, said of the victory. “It was just fun to play in, considering everyone’s shotswere on that night. We clicked as a team with our offense a defense. Lewis and Clark beat
Carroll by 10 points the night before so we knew as a team that this wasn’t gonna be an easy win
and we needed to bring our A-game.”
Dembek also echoed VanDyke’s comments on the competitive nature of the Frontier
Conference this season.
“Each team in the conference brings a threat of their own so I guess it just depends on
which team came to play that night. Rocky Mountain College beat the University of Great Fallsand Montana State University Northern so far this season so I guess they are looking prettytough,” Dembek said.According to VanDyke, the 5-foot-9-inch Dembek fills an important role on the team.
"Martha is a very talented guard. She is a great shooter that is shooting 38 percent fromthe three point line. Martha brings height to the guard position and is a great rebounder. She isleading our team in rebounds with nine per game,” VanDyke commented.Despite suffering from a concussion that left her sidelined for four weeks at the beginningof the season, Dembek pushed through her recovery and hit the hardwood stronger than ever.Dembek averages 28.1 minutes per game for the Diggers, with 11.1 points per game and animpressive 83 percent average from the free throw line.
“My role on the team is to lead by example,” Dembek said. “If my teammates see me
working hard, being vocal, or bringing energy to practice or the game, they will follow. It was
tough to be a leader [when I was out with a concussion] seeing how I couldn’t practice, missed 4games, and couldn’t go to class. It really took it out of me. I’m happy to be past that now so my teammates can count on me.”
Dembek grew up playing basketball in the rural town of Winnett, Montana, where she attended a high school of 30 students. She attributes her love for the game to growing up playing on the basketball hoop in her driveway with her three older brothers and one older sister, some of whom played at the collegiate level.
“Where I live in Central Montana, it is a very big ranching and farming community that
is very close knit. To find things to do in the middle of nowhere, of course we all played sports.Basketball brought our community together,” she said.Dembek is not only a star on the court, she also excels in the classroom. The honor roll nursing student balances exams, classes and clinical studies on top of basketball practice, weightlifting, film and frequent traveling for games.
“I thought it was gonna be an impossible feat,” Dembek said of balancing the competitive nature of nursing school with the competitive nature of collegiate athletics. “There’s only been two girls years back prior to my teammate Callee [Remsen] and I who have tackled nursing and basketball. It’s a huge commitment. I have class or clinicals all day, get an hour to study until practice usually. Between film, lifting and practice, basketball usually lasts about four hours a day. By the time you’re done with basketball for the day, it’s late, you still have to shower and eat dinner. Nursing is very demanding and you somehow have to fit hours and hours of studying in.”
Martha Dembek, however, is up for the challenge of balancing collegiate athletics and academics.
“I love challenges,” said Dembek, who plans to work as a Registered Nurse in rural Montana upon her graduation in spring 2017. “It has taught me to have time management, discipline and sacrifice. Most college kids get Thanksgiving break, a full Christmas break, and weekends to have fun with their friends. With nursing and basketball, I am either studying or doing something related to basketball. When we travel for basketball, I study long hours on bus rides, in hotel rooms, every spare chance I get. We’re traveling on weekends, we get an eight-day Christmas break, no Thanksgiving break, workouts throughout the year. It’s a huge commitment, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. My teammates, coaches, family and teacherskeep me going. God plays a huge role in my life and I give all the glory to Him.”
*Game details were not available by press time.