March 2, 2012
LACEY, Wash. - Western Washington University, the No.2-seed, played stifling defense in rolling to a 66-54 victory over No.3 seed Northwest Nazarene University in a semifinal round contest of the second annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Tournament on Friday at Marcus Pavilion on the Saint Martin's University campus.
The Vikings improved to 21-6 with their sixth straight victory and ninth in 10 games. They advance to Saturday's championship game at 7:30 p.m. against No.1 seed and nationally No.8-ranked University of Alaska Anchorage, which defeated No.5-seed Simon Fraser University, 74-70, in the other semifinal. The contest will be televised live on ROOT Sports.
The GNAC final will be WWU's second straight. It lost 68-67 to UAA last year at Bellingham after winning the regular-season title.
The Vikings held NNU to 29.4 percent (15-of-51) field-goal shooting and had a 42-32 edge in rebounds with reserve forward Sarah Hill (So., Richmond, VA) grabbing a game-high nine and center Britt Harris (Jr., Marysville/Marysville-Pilchuck) eight.
Forward Kristin Schramm (Sr., Chelan) and guard Corinn Waltrip (Jr., Tigard, OR) each had a game-high 13 points for WWU, which shot 44.0 percent from the field (22-of-50) and made just 17-of-30 free throws (56.7 percent). Guard Trishi Williams (Jr., Mabton) contributed nine points.
NNU dropped to 18-10 overall, having a four-game winning streak snapped. The Crusaders got 11 points each from guards Alla Dzhidzhiyeshvili and Chelsie Luke, and forward Megan Hingston had 10. Center Briaunna King, who entered the game averaging 15.7 points, was held to four points.
"Our defense saved us tonight when our offense and free throws just weren't there," said WWU head coach Carmen Dolfo (21st year). "Britt [Harris] did a great job of jumping to the ball and playing defense to shut down Briaunna King.
"One thing that really helped us was our depth. I don't think NNU was able to match that."
NNU made just five field goals in 24 attempts (20.8 percent) in the first 20 minutes. Despite that, WWU led by only six points midway through the period and the Crusaders tied the game at 17-all with 3:35 left in half.
WWU ended the period with a 7-1 run, Williams hitting two jumpers around a three-pointer by Erin Feeney (R-Fr., Bothell/Jackson), for a 24-18 halftime lead.
The Vikings scored seven straight points to begin the second half, Erika Ramstead (Jr., Everson/Nooksack Valley) making a jumper followed by two free throws and a three-pointer by Waltrip, who had 11 points in the half, for a 12-point advantage, 31-19, with just over two minutes gone.
WWU led by 13 points, 52-39, with 9:15 remaining, and the closest the Crusaders got after that was seven.
"I'm really proud of our effort and the heart that we played with tonight but it was a rough shooting night," said NNU head coach Kelli Lindley. "When you shoot 29-percent against a great team like Western, you are going to struggle to win.
"I thought we did a really good job defensively in the first half, but because we shot so poorly it was hard to get any offensive momentum. I give Western Washington credit...they are very deep and really play hard."
WWU has won eight of the last nine series meetings with NNU. During the regular season, the Vikings lost 75-62 at Nampa, Id., and won 75-68 at Bellingham.
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