You can almost imagine the public address announcer in the University of Montana Western’s Straugh Gym next basketball season: “Is there a Bignell in the house?”
That’s because with the addition of Capital High’s Savanna Bignell, the Western Bulldogs women's basketball roster will be crowded with four Bignells -- Savanna, older sister Sierra and cousin Kaye, all from CHS, and cousin Frankie Bignell of Class B Drummond.
Savanna, a 5-foot-5 guard, was a two-time second team All-Conference selection, as well as being chosen to back-to-back All-Tournament teams at State. She was a starter on both the 2015 AA championship Bruins team and the 2016 fourth-place squad.
In her final campaign she averaged 7.5 points, 5.1 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 2.1 steals per game. During the opening contest at State, when the West’s No. 4 seeded Bruins upset Eastern champion Billings West 48-41, Bignell produced one of the best efforts of her career.
The CHS senior fired in 18 points -- including 4 of 7 from 3-point land -- speared eight rebounds, passed for four assists and pirated a pair of steals.
Playing most of the season with a painful foot injury after she sprained an ankle in their first Western AA playoff win over Flathead, Capital coach Bill Pilgeram described Bignell as "a warrior, she’s the toughest kid we got, and I guarantee she’ll be on the floor (in the second playoff game in Missoula) against Hellgate.”
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Pilgeram was right, as Bignell scored nine points in the No. 6 Bruins 45-43 come-from-behind upset over No. 3 Hellgate. “Savanna Bignell and Tjaden Pallister were amazing leading our defense,” the CHS skipper said afterwards.
The versatile Bignell will leave the school with nine varsity letters; four in track and field, three in hoops and two in volleyball. Last year, she placed fifth at the State Track Meet in the javelin with a throw of 119-5.
"Savanna is one of the hardest working, passionate players I've ever coached!" said Pilgeram on Monday. "No one ever played harder but also as coachable and unselfish as anyone. She improved every year with us and she has a very high potential at Western. She was a major piece of the success we had while she was here."
Savanna -- whose parents are John and Tana Bignell -- carries a 3.4 GPA in the classroom and plans on pursuing a degree in Health and Human Performance.
“The first things that stood out to me with Savanna was her toughness and competitiveness,” stated Western coach Lindsay Woolley. “Any time we can sign a kid that plays as hard as she does, we’re excited. She is going to be fun to watch over the course of her career.”