The Mines women’s basketball team had a bit of a rocky start to the season. The Orediggers dropped their first conference matchups. Returning center, sophomore Courtney Stanton, suffered a finger injury at practice in the weeks leading up to the home opener and senior sharp-shooter Cassidy Budge was on the bench with an ankle injury. It took a few weeks for the squad to nurse their wounds, but this also allowed some of the younger players to find their rhythm on an NCAA court.
However, since a December 8th loss to presumptive conference champion Colorado Mesa, the Orediggers have gone 13-4 and are currently tied for third place in RMAC play. How does a team turn around their season so quickly? For Mines, the answer is offense. Redshirt sophomore Raven Herrera has had a breakout season, averaging nearly ten points per game, and leading the Orediggers with 44 steals and 15 blocks on the defensive end.
Returning seniors Anna Kollmorgen and Nicole Archambeau have been big producers as well, combing for 18.7 points per game. Kollmorgen has been a great playmaker, dishing out a team-leading 77 assists. Archambeau’s season culminated in an incredible performance against CSU-Pueblo on February 16th, leading all players with 22 points, 13 rebounds and six assists. She also leads the Orediggers with 190 rebounds.
Budge eased into the season, but has been on fire as of late, averaging 14.4 points per game in Mine’s last five games despite only getting 22 minutes of play per game. Budge had a season high in scoring on February 15th against New Mexico Highlands knocking down seven consecutive three pointers.
The biggest surprise of the season has been how well the freshman are adjusting to the collegiate game. Megan Van de Graff has traded minutes with Stanton and Madelene McDonald at the center position and has acclimated well. Sammy Van Sickle has been providing quality minutes off the bench and has proved herself as a threat from beyond the arc.
However, it’s been Denali Pinto leading the way Mines. The freshman out of Boulder, Colorado leads the Orediggers in scoring and three-point shooting, averaging 14.2 points per game, and sinking 33 from downtown.
She has a knack for finding open shots, and seemingly creates lanes to drive to the hoop. Pinto also leads Mines with 77 free throws made, which is a function of her ability to draw fouls. On February 1st, Pinto managed to single-handedly outscore CSU Pueblo in the first half, and ended with 33 points, six of which came from the charity stripe.
Pinto has already picked up offensive and defensive player of the week honors, and, by no stretch of the imagination, is the best freshman in the conference. It may have taken this Mines team a bit to find themselves, but after winning six in a row to start February, have put themselves in playoff contention. A win against either South Dakota School of Mines or UCCS results in clinching a spot in the conference tournament, and the Orediggers are ready for their first chance since 2016 for an RMAC tournament championship.