BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Needing a third straight championship to gain a berth in the NCAA Division II West Regional, the Western Washington University women's basketball team meets Central Washington University in an opening-round game at the fifth annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championships Tournament which begins Wednesday, March 4 (5:15 p.m. MST) at Alterowitz Gymnasium on the campus of Montana State University Billings.
All games involving the Vikings will be carried live on KPUG (1170 AM) Radio. Links to live stats and free live video of the contests are available at www.wwuvikings.com.
WWU, the No.3 seed, finished its regular season at 19-8 overall and third in the GNAC standings at 13-5 following a 72-65 win over Simon Fraser last Saturday at Carver Gym as Kiana Gandy came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, 15 of them in the second half.
The top six teams in the final GNAC standings qualified for the conference tourney.
The winner receives an automatic berth in the eight-team NCAA II West Regional, joining the California Collegiate Athletic Association and Pacific West Conference tournament champions and five at-large teams selected by their ranking in the final poll. WWU was not among the top 10 in last week's regional ranking.
WWU has won the last two GNAC tournament crowns with this year's No.1 seed and regular-season champion Alaska Anchorage taking the first two titles in 2011 and 2012. The Vikings have reached the final in each of the first four conference tourneys.
UAA is ranked No.1 nationally in the USA Today Sports Top 25 Poll conducted by the Women's Basketball Coaches Association and No.1 in the NCAA II West Region rating. WWU lost both regular-season meetings with the Seawolves, the last 81-78 at Bellingham on Feb. 21.
UAA, which receives a first-round bye, meets the winner of Wednesday's other first-round game between No.4-seed Simon Fraser and No.5-seed Saint Martin's, on Friday. Getting the other bye was Seattle Pacific, the No.2 seed. The Falcons will play the winner of the WWU/Central game on Friday, March 6 at 12 noon MST.
The championship contest is slated for Saturday at 5:15 p.m. MST.
WWU swept both regular-season meetings with Central, winning by eight points, 76-68, at Ellensburg on Jan. 8, and on a last-second shot, 62-61, at Bellingham on Feb. 7. The Vikings have gone to regionals in 15 of 16 years since WWU joined the NCAA, including the last six straight. They reached the national semifinals in 2012-13.
WWU is ranked among the nation's top 10 teams in every shooting category. The Vikings are No.2 in field-goal percentage at 47.7 (783-of-1642), No.4 in 3-point shooting at 38.6 (152-of-394) and No.7 in free-throw accuracy at 78.2 (355-of-454). The Vikings lead the GNAC in field-goal and 3-point accuracy and are second in free-throw shooting, which is school-record pace.
Forward Taylor Peacocke leads WWU scorers, averaging 13.7 points per game. She is tied for second in rebounds (4.7), second all alone in steals (1.4), and third in assists (2.1). She has twice been named GNAC co-Player of the Week this season and picked to two all-tournament teams.
Peacocke, who recently had a consecutive free throw streak end at 25 (two short of school record), ranks eighth nationally in free-throw accuracy at 90.4 percent (85-of-94).
Center Kayla Bernsen, averaging 12.6 points, tops the Vikings in rebounds at 6.6 and has blocked 49 shots (1.8 avg.), second in the GNAC. Her 3.3 offensive rebounds per game lead the conference. Bernsen ranks 11th among WWU career leaders in blocks with 113.
Guard Katie Colard and Peacocke rank one-two among GNAC free throw shooters at 94.8 percent (55-of-58) and 90.4 percent (85-of-94), respectively. Bernsen and Sydney Donaldson are second and fifth in field-goal percentage at 55.3 percent (140-of-253) and 52.6 percent (92-of-175), respectively.
5th Annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Tournament
Billings, Mont. (Alterowitz Gymnasium) - host Montana State Billings
(All times listed are Mountain Standard)
Wed., March 4
No.3 seed WWU (19-8, 13-5) vs. No.6 seed Central Washington (12-14, 7-11), 5:15 p.m.
No.4 seed Simon Fraser (14-12, 10-8) vs. No.5 seed Saint Martin's (11-15, 8-10), 7:30 p.m.
Fri., March 6
3/6 winner vs. No.2 seed Seattle Pacific (21-5, 13-5), 12 noon
4/5 winner vs. No.1 seed Alaska Anchorage (27-1, 17-1), 2:15 p.m.
Sat., March 7
Championship Game, 5:15 p.m.
All games broadcast on KPUG Radio (1170 AM) and video streamed via internet at wwuvikings.com
CENTRAL WASHINGTON: The Wildcats are 12-14 overall and placed sixth in the GNAC standings at 7-11. The top players for first-year coach Jeff Harada are returnee 6-0 senior forward Courtney Johnson (13.7 ppg, 5.5 rpg,) and 5-5 freshman guard Jasmin Edwards (12.2 ppg, 4.7 apg). CWU ranks second in the GNAC in scoring defense (61.1). WWU leads the series 88-10, winning the last 15 meetings and 23 of the last 24. WWU has won both meetings this season, 76-68 at Ellensburg on Jan. 8 and 62-61 at Bellingham on Feb.7.
SEATTLE PACIFIC: The Falcons, ranked No.19 nationally last week, are 21-5 overall and placed second in the GNAC standings at 13-5. Three starters return from last year's 18-9 team - second-team GNAC all-star 5-7 senior guard Suzanna Ohlsen (18.2 ppg,, 3.9 apg, 2.5 spg), 5-11 junior forward Maddey Pflaumer (10.5 ppg, 4.6 rpg) and 5-11 senior guard Betsy Kingma (9.2 ppg). Completing the starting lineup for coach Julie Heisey (10th year, 216-69; 19th overall 378-188) are two returnees - 5-9 senior guard Aubree Callen (16.0 ppg, 5.1 rpg, 2.8 apg), a medical redshirt last year after suffering a knee injury, and 5-10 sophomore forward Hannah Rodrigues (5.9 ppg, 4.8 rpg). SPU leads the GNAC and is third nationally in free throw percentage at 79.0. WWU holds a 56-30 series advantage. WWU has lost both meetings this season, 74-64 at Bellingham on Jan. 1 and 72-68 at Seattle on Jan. 31.
FOUR VIKING SENIORS: Four WWU seniors are closing out their careers. They are Katie Colard, Sydney Donaldson, Marcel Pounds and Jenni White. That quartet has helped the Vikings to an overall record of 115-34 over the last five seasons (Pounds played as a true freshman and was a redshirt sophomore), making post-season appearances each year. WWU was a national semifinalist in 2013, regional semifinalist in 2012, and got to the first round at regionals in 2011 and 2014. The quartet has scored 3,055 points (Colard 1,160, Donaldson 875, White 765 and Pounds 255).
VIKINGS AMONG NATION'S BEST IN SHOOTING: WWU ranks second nationally in NCAA II in field-goal shooting (47.7, 783-of-1642), fourth in 3-point marksmanship (38.6, 152-of-394) and seventh in free-throw accuracy (78.2, 355-of-454). The Vikings lead the GNAC in field-goal and 3-point shooting and are second in free-throw accuracy, which is school-record pace.
Colard became the 23rd WWU player to score 1,000 career points with a 3-pointer in the first minute of the Seattle Pacific game on New Year's Day. Her current total of 1,160 points ranks 14th among Viking leaders and she needs four to move into 13th.
Colard, who tops the GNAC in free-throw accuracy at 94.8 (55-of-58) percent, made her first 22 free throws this season to tie the school record of 27 in a row that she now holds jointly with Erica Porter (1987-88) and Corinn Waltrip (2011-12).
Colard has a career free-throw percentage of 86.7 percent (156-of-180), which is school-record pace. She has made her last 16 attempts.
NEXT BENCHMARK FOR DOLFO: Head coach Carmen Dolfo has 513 victories and needs five more to become the winningest coach at WWU for all sports. The record of 518 is held by former men's basketball coach Brad Jackson, now an assistant at University of Washington. He coached the Vikings for 27 seasons from 1985 to 2012.
THREE-DOT NOTES: WWU has held opponents under 70 points in seven of its last eight contests ... Peacocke has scored double-figures in 14 of her last 16 games and 22 overall this season.
GNAC ACADEMIC ALL-STARS: Three WWU players were named 2014-15 GNAC Academic All-Stars on Feb. 24. The trio included Rachel Albert, guard Aleisha Hathaway and forward Taylor Peacocke. Peacocke is a sociology major with a 3.63 (4.0 scale) grade point average. Hathaway is a kinesiology major with a 3.50 GPA, and Albert is a kinesiology major with a 3.30 GPA.
NARROW DEFEATS: Seven of WWU's eight losses this season have been by 10 or fewer points and five of those by five or less. The Vikings are 1-5 against nationally ranked opponents, defeating No.6 Tampa FL, 85-56, while losing 64-63 in overtime to No.4 West Texas A&M, 74-64 to No.19 and 72-68 to No.22 Seattle Pacific and 71-58 to No.3 and 81-78 to No.1 Alaska Anchorage.
TEAM OF THE WEEK: WWU pulled off a pair of improbable victories at Carver Gym to earn Red Lion Hotels GNAC Team of the Week honors for Feb. 1-7. Kayla Bernsen scored on a putback with 1.3 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a 62-61win over Central Washington on Feb. 7 after Sydney Donaldson hit a buzzer-beater from 16 feet for a 70-69 victory over Northwest Nazarene on Feb. 5.
2014-15 SEASON HIGHLIGHTS:
Nov. 22 - WWU rallied from a seven-point deficit in regulation and went on to claim an 80-77 win in overtime against UC San Diego at Carver Gym. Bernsen led the Vikings with 19 points and Peacocke added 16.
Nov. 28 - Colard hit seven 3-pointers, one make shy of the school record, as WWU toppled No.6 nationally ranked Tampa FL at Carver Gym.
Dec. 14 - Colard scored a game-high 26 points as the Vikings overcame a nine-point second-half deficit to defeat NCAA I Portland State, 75-64, in an exhibition game for WWU at Portland, Ore.
Dec. 18 - WWU had three potential game-winning shots miss in the final 24 seconds as it fell to No.4 West Texas A&M, 64-63, at the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic in Las Vegas, Nevada. There were 17 lead changes and 11 ties in the contest.
Dec. 19 - Dolfo got her 500th win as the Vikings defeated Southern Indiana, 71-50, at the South Point Holiday Hoops Classic, snapping the Screaming Eagles eight-game winning streak.
Jan. 1 - Colard became the 23rd WWU player to score 1,000 career points, hitting a 3-pointer in the game's opening moments, but the Vikings fell 74-64 to No.19 nationally ranked Seattle Pacific at Carver Gym.
Jan. 3 - WWU rolled over Montana State Billings, 100-51, at Carver Gym, reaching the century mark for the first time since early in the 2011-12 season.
Jan. 15 - Donaldson had a career-high 24 points and grabbed 10 rebounds as WWU rolled over Western Oregon, 80-64.
Feb. 5 - Donaldson hit a buzzer-beating 16-foot jumper as the Vikings prevail 70-69 over Northwest Nazarene at Carver Gym. The Crusaders had scored 12 straight points to take a 69-68 lead.
Feb. 7 - Bernsen scored the last of her team-high 19 points on a putback with 1.3 seconds left as WWU took a 62-61 win at home over Central Washington. The Vikings trailed by 10 points early in the second half and by two, 61-59, with 45.6 seconds remaining. The back-to-back nail-biting wins earned Red Lion Hotels GNAC Team of the Week honors for WWU.
Feb. 28 - Gandy scored 15 of her team-high 19 points in the second half as WWU closed out its regular season with a 72-65 win over Simon Fraser at Carver Gym.
DOLFO ACHIEVES NO. 500: WWU head coach Carmen Dolfo became the first four-year collegiate women's basketball coach in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon and Washington) to record 500 victories at one university in those states with the Vikings' 71-50 victory over Southern Indiana on Dec. 19. She is just the 24th coach in NCAA II history to accomplish that feat. In her 24th season, Dolfo has directed the Vikings to a 513-191 record (72.9 percent).
Dolfo Milestone Victories: No.100 12/01/95, 80-57 vs. Whitworth, Carver Gym No.200 02/03/00, 76-59 vs. Alaska Anchorage, Carver Gym No.300 02/24/05, 93-60 at Central Washington, Ellensburg No.400 11/20/10, 58-24 vs. San Francisco State, Seattle No.500 12/19/14, 71-50 vs. Southern Indiana, Las Vegas
ACCOLADES: Colard was named MVP of the Lynda Goodrich Classic. Two other Vikings picked to that all-tournament team were Donaldson and Bernsen ... Colard was chosen GNAC co-Player of the Week for Nov. 23-29 ... Peacocke received all-tourney recognition for her play at the Seattle Pacific Sodexo Tipoff Classic and at the WWU West Region Crossover Classic. She was named GNAC co-Player of the Week for Nov. 16-22 and Jan. 4-10, and Donaldson was the GNAC weekly honoree for Jan. 11-17. Colard was a first-team GNAC all-star last season and Jenni White received honorable mention and was the GNAC tourney MVP ... Both Colard and White were 2014-15 GNAC Preseason all-stars ... Colard set a school record in 2013-14 by hitting one or more treys in 33 straight games.
PRESEASON HYPE: WWU received nine of 10 first-place votes and was picked to place first in the GNAC coaches' preseason poll. The Vikings have won GNAC championships in 2002, 2006, 2011 (regular season), 2013 (regular season and tournament) and 2014 (tournament).
WWU was ranked No.21 in the USA Today Sports Preseason Top 25 and No.15 in the Division II Bulletin Preseason Top 25.
HOME COURT DOMINANCE: The Vikings are 458-77 (85.6 percent) in 43 seasons at Carver Gym. Their longest home court win streak was 29 from 1983 to 1986.
FAMILY TIES: Two members of this year's team have fathers who played men's basketball at WWU. They are Tia Briggs (Ed - WWU's career leader in blocked shots with 183) and Kiana Gandy (Joe). Katie Colard, had a sister, Kelly, who played basketball at WWU, and a brother, Kevin, who competed in football for the Vikings.
COACH DOLFO: Carmen Dolfo is in her 24th year as head coach at WWU. She has a 513-191 (72.9 percent) record, and ranks No.10 among active NCAA II coaches in winning percentage and No.11 in victories. Her winning percentage among NCAA II coaches all-time ranks No.22 and her victory total No.25. Dolfo's teams have reached post-season play 22 times and have won 20 or more games 17 times. She was named GNAC Coach of the Year in 2004, 2006, 2011 and 2013; Northwest small college Coach of the Year in 2000 and Pacific Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year in 1995 and 1996. Dolfo has coached 13 All-Americans (includes honorable mention) and 50 conference all-stars during her tenure. She was the top Viking assistant for four seasons (95-28, 77.2) and earned All-America honors as a player at WWU. She has been involved in 874 games as a head coach, assistant coach and player for the Vikings.
Dolfo became the first four-year collegiate women's basketball coach in the state of Washington and the Pacific Northwest (Idaho, Oregon and Washington) to record 500 victories at one university in those states when the Vikings defeated Southern Indiana, 71-50, on Dec. 19. She is just the 24th coach in NCAA II history to accomplish that feat.
TRADITION OF SUCCESS: With 945 victories (326 losses, 74.4 percent) in its 44-year history, WWU is one of just a handful of colleges in all divisions of the NCAA to reach the 900-plateau... The Vikings have made 42 post-season appearances, including one stretch of 28 straight, with two national semifinal and three quarterfinal finishes ... They have made 15 West Regional appearances in their first 16 seasons as a NCAA II member, and also have had 31 20-win seasons ... WWU has had 23 winning streaks of 10 or more games with its longest being 21 ... Former WWU coach Lynda Goodrich is a member of the NAIA National Hall of Fame. She coached WWU for 19 seasons, winning more than 400 games (411-127, 76.4 percent). Another Viking NAIA Hall of Famer is forward Jo Metzger (1977-81), who earned first-team All-America honors in 1980 and 1981 ... WWU has had 13 first, second or third-team All-Americans.
ON THE WEB: All Viking games are being video streamed live with live stats and are available at www.wwuvikings.com. For up-to-date statistics, box scores of every game, records, stories, etc., see the WWU Athletics web page at www.wwuvikings.com. Up-to-date league standings and statistics can be found on the Great Northwest Athletic Conference web page at www.gnacsports.com
RADIO BROADCASTS: Selected WWU games are being broadcast this season on KBAI Radio (930 AM) or KPUG (1170 AM) with Doug Lange handling the play-by-play and Mark Scholten providing the color commentary. They also can be heard on the internet at www.wwuvikings.com.
PROBABLE WESTERN STARTERS & TOP RESERVES:
F Sydney Donaldson, 6-0, ***Sr., Edmonds, WA/Edmonds-Woodway F Taylor Peacocke, 5-9, *So., Kenmore, WA/Inglemoor/Sacramento State C Kayla Bernsen, 6-3, **Jr., Moses Lake, WA/Moses Lake G Jenni White, 5-5, ***Sr., Spokane, WA/East Valley G Katie Colard, 5-9, ***Sr., McCleary, WA/Elma
C Tia Briggs, 6-1, *So., Tacoma, WA/Wilson F Kiana Gandy, 5-10, *So., Des Moines, WA/Mount Rainier F Rachel Albert, 5-10, *So., Bellingham, WA/Sehome G Marcel Pounds, 5-8, ***Sr., Bonney Lake, WA/Bonney Lake F Aleisha Hathaway, 5-9, *So., Spokane, WA/Shadle Park G Maia Barnett, 5-7, Fr., Los Angeles, CA/The Archer School F Jasmine McCleave, 5-10, RS-Fr., Renton, WA/Holy Names Academy *letters won
MOST RECENT GAME SUMMARIES:
Sat., Feb. 21 - WWU edged by No.1 Alaska Anchorage, 81-78
Viking rally falls short as 3-pointer rims out at buzzer
WWU's attempt to upset NCAA Division II No.1 Alaska Anchorage fell just short as a potential game-tying 3-pointer rimmed out at the buzzer and the Seawolves claimed an 81-78 victory in a GNAC contest at Carver Gym.
Bernsen had a game-high 20 points and White added 19 for the Vikings, who had a five-game winning streak snapped and fell to 18-8 overall and 12-5 in the GNAC.
Top-ranked UAA improved to 25-1 with its 13th straight victory, and clinched sole possession of first place in the GNAC and the top-seed in the conference tournament at 15-1. Jessica Madison came off the bench to lead five Seawolves in double figures with 16 points, hitting 4-of-5 3-pointers.
Down five, 79-74, inside the final two minutes, WWU pulled to within one as Bernsen hit two free throws with 1:45 left, then scored on a post-up with 26.1 seconds to go, narrowing the margin to one, 79-78.
Kiki Robertson hit one of two free throws for the Seawolves, giving the Vikings a chance to tie, but UAA's Megan Mullings stopped a Peacocke layup attempt with her fourth block.
UAA's KeKe Wright then hit the first of two free throws with 5.3 seconds left, pushing the margin to three, 81-78, but missed the second. White, who matched a career scoring high, then drove upcourt, eluded a defender to get off an off-balance 3-pointer that rimmed out at the buzzer.
Robertson had 13 points for UAA, which shot 56.6 percent (30-of-53) from the field. Wright and Mullings each had 12 points, and Alysha Devine had 10.
Peacocke had 11 points for WWU, and Colard added 10.
The Vikings trailed by as much as 12 early in the second half, but used a 12-2 run to close the gap to two, 50-48, with 14:24 left, and eventually tied the game at 56-56 on a Bernsen layin with 11:22 remaining.
The Seawolves again went back up by 10 at 71-61 with 5:36 left, but WWU rallied again, closing to within three, 75-72, with 3:03 left after back-to-back 3-pointers by White.
Sat., Feb. 28 - WWU defeats Simon Fraser, 72-65, on regional TV
Vikings clinch third in GNAC race
Gandy came off the bench to score a career-high 19 points, helping WWU defeat Simon Fraser, 72-65, in a GNAC contest at Carver Gym. The game was regionally televised on ROOT Sports.
Peacocke added 12 points for the Vikings, who completed their regular season 19-8 overall and third in the GNAC at 13-5. WWU was 11-3 at Carver Gym this season
Erin Chambers had 25 of her-game high 28 points in the second half for Simon Fraser, which fell to 14-12 overall and placed fourth in the GNAC at 10-8. It was the sixth loss in the last 10 games for the Clan.
WWU never trailed, breaking away from a 6-6 tie with a 10-1 run to take a 16-7 lead with 12:30 left in the first half. The margin was never less than five the rest of the half, and the Vikings held a 35-27 lead at halftime.
SFU used a run of eight straight points, six of them by Chambers, to pull within two, 45-43, with 12:15 to play. But WWU responded shortly after with a 7-0 burst, going up 56-47, with 8:51 left.
SFU never got closer than seven after that.
Gandy, who scored 15 points in the second half, had the first five points of the decisive charge. She had scored a total of just 18 points in the previous six games, and none in the last two contests.
Briggs had 10 points for WWU, which shot 47.5 percent (28-of-59) from the field, including 53.8 percent (14-of-26) in the second half.
The Vikings had a 37-23 advantage in rebounds with Bernsen grabbing a game-high nine while scoring eight points.
WWU and Bellingham Selected as Host for 2019 GNAC Basketball Championships
WECU Court at Carver Gym will host the 2019 GNAC Basketball Championships March 7-9, 2019
Vikings Take Down Central Washington 67-59
Hannah Stipanovich scores game-high 19 points, WWU win for fifth time over last six games
Trio of Vikings Named to GNAC All-Academic Team
Hannah Stipanovich, Amanda Lance and Lexie Bland honored by conference
Vikings to Host Central Washington and Northwest Nazarene
WWU faces CWU on Thursday, NNU on Saturday in GNAC matchups
Late Comeback Falls Short in Women's Hoops 80-62 Loss at SPU
Gracie Castaneda scores career-high 21 points as Vikings have four-game winning streak snapped
Vikings Roll To 79-51 Win at Saint Martin's
WWU wins fourth consecutive game, Vikings shoot 50.0% (28-of-56) from the field
Women's Basketball On the Road to Face SMU and SPU
Vikings face the Saints Thursday night (7 pm) and the Falcons Saturday night (7 pm)
Viking Spotlight | Lexie Bland & Dani Iwami
Hear from WWU women's basketball sophomore guards Lexie Bland and Dani Iwami
WWU Tops Concordia 84-68 for Third Straight Win
Vikings outscore Cavaliers 25-7 in third quarter to pull away from two-point halftime lead
WWU Pulls Away from Western Oregon for 66-46 Victory
Vikings outscore Wolves 38-19 in third and fourth quarters in commanding victory
WWU Returns Home to Host Western Oregon and Concordia
The Vikings face WOU on Thursday (7 pm) and Concordia on Saturday (7 pm)
Women's Hoops Picks Up 46-38 Road Victory Over Alaska
Vikings pull away late in low-scoring road game with Anna Schwecke scoring a game-high 10 points
Vikings Fall Short 66-59 at Alaska Anchorage
No. 9 Seawolves hold off Vikings as WWU rallies from double-digit deficit
Women's Basketball Heads North to Alaska
Vikings will face No. 9 Alaska Anchorage on Thursday, Alaska Fairbanks on Saturday
WWU Edged 77-73 by Central Washington
Wildcats pull ahead late to top Vikings, contest features 17 lead changes and 15 ties