Phillips County News - One Nation, Under God

By Pierre Bibbs
Sports Editor 

Former M-ette Stiles returns to court in Missoula


November 27, 2019

Bill Jarvis via University of Montana Athletics

Former M-ette Sophia Stiles has returned to the starting lineup for the University of Montana Lady Griz.

Sophia Stiles, a former M-ette standout and starting point guard for the University of Montana Lady Griz, has returned to action in the 2019-20 season.

"It's pretty amazing," Stiles said of being a part of the Lady Griz. "The fans are just crazy. It's really what makes being a Lady Griz so cool."

Being a part of the University of Montana Lady Griz is something Stiles wanted since she was a young child.

"Growing up, I just wanted to play here, so getting to has been a dream," Stiles said. "The facilities and everyone around here is just really awesome."

Speaking of dreams, Stiles has a chance to help her team reach the NCAA Tournament, an event that she attended with her family during her high school years.

"We could potentially be in the final four," Stiles said. "If you win the Big Sky Tournament, you are in the NCAA March Madness Tournament Bracket."

Last Sunday, Stiles played one of the team's that she has seen in the Sweet 16 and Elite 8 as a high schooler; The Arizona Wildcats. The Lady Griz fell 77-42 to the Wildcats who were led by their single-season scoring record holder Aari McDonald. McDonald had 19 points.

"She is good, good," Stiles said of McDonald. "She will go to the WNBA this year or next year. She is insane. She is the quickest person that I have ever seen."

The Whitewater native and 2017 graduate of Malta High School impressed in her freshman season at the U of M, but the two-time Montana High School Girl's Basketball Player of the Year had to overcome a major knee injury to return to the hardwood this season.

On the third start of her college career, on Saturday, February 3, 2018, against North Dakota, Stiles drove for a layup and landed awkwardly, tearing her ACL and spraining her MCL. Stiles would have her ACL repaired by surgery a month later.

She was out for nine months and was able to play last November and participated in exhibition games last December, but Stiles chose to redshirt her sophomore season.

"I was kind of just testing the waters to see if I wanted to play last year," Stiles said, mentioning that she played against Montana Tech. "I actually felt really good, and I was playing good basketball in practice, so I was really considering it, but I decided I didn't want to waste a year of eligibility for conference play."

Stiles knew that the longer she sat, the better her health would be longterm.

In her third year with the team, Stiles has been entrusted with more play, taking on many plays as the team's point guard.

In her first season, Stiles was a two-guard with third-year player Mckenzie Johnston already having had experience as the point guard in 2017-18.

"There are a lot of plays to remember and a lot of pressure for a freshman to come in and play the point," Stiles said. "I am happy to be at the point now, that's where I had always been. I had always been the one. Two was a little weird for me. I felt like I was getting into the groove of (being a two) but I am happy to be back at the point."

In high school Stiles led the M-ettes to four state title games in her career, winning two Class B Titles (2015, 2016) as a point guard, but she knows that the college style of play is a lot different.

"We run a lot of sets," Stiles said of the Lady Griz playbook. "Every time we go down the floor, we run a set play, which is very, very different than how we ran the old M-ette offense. Back then we kind of just played basketball and had some motion offense."

Stiles said that the Lady Griz have over 50 set plays in their playbook.

"It's definitely a big learning curve and you have to memorize so many things," she said. "Once you figure the plays out, its easier to play out of them."

Stiles admitted that during her first year and her first moments back, that she would think through the plays instead of playing with her instinct. She said that things have become second nature again.

In her 26 games played, Stiles has started seven times, and all four games this season. In her college career, Stiles has had 195 points, 84 rebounds (55 Def, 29 Off), 44 assists, 35 steals, and 11 blocks.

Though they live in Malta, Stiles' parents Del and KayDel have attended every home game in Missoula that Sophia has played in.

"Sometimes they leave in the morning, watch my game for two hours, and then leave right after and get home at three in the morning," Sophia said. "They put in a lot of time on the road and I am very thankful."

Stiles had a prolific high school career not only in basketball but also in track and field, winning nine individual trophies and one team State B trophy with the M-ettes in 2016.

Since playing with the Lady Griz was a dream of hers, Stiles shared some advice for the youth of Phillips County looking to chase their own dreams.

"No dream is too big," Stiles said. "Find a dream, and just do everything in your power to fulfill it. Practice. Even if it's not sports-related. Find something you are passionate about and do everything you can to make it happen."


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