Kia Tower began her college basketball career 6-for-6 from the field off the bench for the University of Jamestown at Harold Newman Arena on Saturday, Oct. 19.
Tower is quick, she's athletic and scored 2,000 career points for Bigfork High School girls basketball in Minnesota, receiving Class A all-state honorable mention nods in 2018-19. Her 16 points and four assists helped UJ sail past the visiting University of Manitoba Bisons 87-63 in exhibition play.
Tower finished 7 of 9 with a 3-pointer and 1-for-1 at the foul line.
"It felt good," Tower said. "Obviously I had nerves and stuff, but once I started playing I got into the flow and it was good."
Tower scored seven points in the third quarter, after the Jimmies led 40-29 at the half, and buried her 3 from the right wing with 4:24 remaining in the fourth. The 5-foot-6 freshman didn't miss until 1:37 remained in the third, as the Jimmies led by as many as 26.
"It doesn't happen like that for everybody," said UJ women's basketball coach Thad Sankey of Tower's six straight field goals. "We've got six all-state players in this freshman class ... and our commitment to developing every single one of our players is a big deal."
Sankey has seven freshmen on the varsity roster, two of which started against the Canadian Bisons. Freshmen forwards Hannah DeMars and Macy Nilsen cracked the opening starting five, along with seniors Paige Schmidt and Olivia Anderson, and sophomore Noelle Josephson.
Junior Emma Stoehr, like Tower, sparked the Jimmies off the bench and posted a game-high 18 points. A fixture in last year's starting lineup, Stoehr's line stood out: 5 of 7 from the field, 3 of 4 from 3-point range and 5 of 5 at the line.
"It definitely was a change of scenery for me," said Stoehr, who hit 54 3-pointers, led the Jimmies with 114 assists and averaged 8.6 points per game as a sophomore. "But, honestly, I took it as I'm gonna go in and I'm gonna play with fire. I was ready to hit some shots and was out there just getting us going."
Stoehr posted 13 points by the half. Sophomore Grace Benz also showed well off the bench, scoring all 10 of her points in the opening two quarters. The Jimmies shot 39% all told (34 of 87) and forced Manitoba into 31 turnovers.
"We felt like we were holding our breath until our shots started falling," Sankey said. "We got caught up in it a little bit in the first half. Emma hit some shots to just, like, loosen up everybody. Grace hit a couple of shots ... and that was a good thing."
Sankey said his starters aren't set in stone. The Jimmies missed the postseason last winter, finishing at 8-14 in the Great Plains Athletic Conference and 14-16 overall in Sankey's first season at the helm.
"Nothing's concrete," Sankey said. "But really for us, we're looking for lineups that we play well with. Who's complementary, who plays well with each other and who makes each other better."
Tower, who will also compete in track and field for UJ, seemed glad to be wearing Jimmie orange. The freshman prides herself on defense, which she said created a host of her 2,000-plus points in high school.
The Jimmies officially open the season next Saturday (Oct. 26) at Madison, S.D., facing Dakota State University.
"If my defense is going well, then I think that can really stir things up for us on offense," Tower said. "It's been a good transition. I feel at home here."
University of Jamestown 87, University of Manitoba 63 (Exhibition)
UM 10 19 19 15 -- 63
UJ 19 21 18 29 -- 87
UM -- Taylor Randall 4, Kexiah Brothers 14, Deidre Bartlett 2, Dana Inglis 6, Addison martin 10, Lauren Bartlett 2, Lauryn Munaigne 6, Emily Johnson 1, Brittanie Parisien 2. Totals: 22-65 FG, 17-26 FT, 60 Rebounds (Brothers 14), 26 Fouls (L. Bartlett), 11 Assists, 31 Turnovers, 4 Blocks, 7 Steals. 3-pointers (2-20): Randall, D. Bartlett.
UJ -- Emma Stoehr 18, Kia Tower 16, Grace Benz 10, Courtney Mosloski 10, Olivia Anderson 8, Mackensi Higlin 8, Hannah DeMars 6, Correy Hickman 4, Danah Ocsan 3, Noelle Josephson 2, Paige Schmidt 2. Totals: 34-87 FG, 13-23 FT, 54 Rebounds (Higlin 9), 28 Fouls, 19 Assists (Tower 4), 18 Turnovers, 3 Blocks, 17 Steals (Josephson 4). 3-pointers (6-29): Stoehr 3, Tower, Benz, Ocsan.