WWU faces Alaska Anchorage in GNAC Tournament title game

Katie Colard
March 6, 2015

BELLINGHAM, Wash. - Needing a victory to secure a berth in the NCAA Division II West Regional, the Western Washington University women's basketball team meets nationally top-ranked University of Alaska Anchorage in the title game at the fifth annual Great Northwest Athletic Conference Championship Tournament on Saturday, March 7 (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 either KBAI (930 AM) or KPUG (1170 AM) Radio. Links to live stats and free live video of the contests are available at www.wwuvikings.com.

WWU, 21-8 and the No.3 seed, advanced to the final with a 72-67 overtime victory over No.2 seed Seattle Pacific in semifinal action Thursday as Katie Colard scored a career-high 34 points. The Vikings, who placed third in the regular-season GNAC standings at 13-5, opened the tourney with a 51-40 victory over No.6 seed Central Washington on Wednesday.

The top six teams in the final GNAC standings qualified for the conference tourney. The winner receives an automatic berth in next week's 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 this week's regional ranking and therefore needs to win the tourney to gain a berth.

WWU has won the last two GNAC tournament crowns, while UAA, this year's regular-season champion and No.1 seed, won the first two titles in 2011 and 2012. The Vikings have now reached the final in each of the five conference tourneys.

UAA, riding a 16-game winning streak, is ranked No.1 in this week's 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, 81-78 at Bellingham on Feb. 21 and 71-58 at Anchorage on Jan. 22.

UAA, which received a first-round bye, edged No.4-seed Simon Fraser, 59-56, in Friday's other semifinal.

WWU has gone to regionals in 15 of 16 seasons since it joined the NCAA, and the last six straight. The Vikings reached the national semifinals in 2013.

The Vikings have had 18 20-win seasons in 24 years under head coach Carmen Dolfo (515-191, 72.9 percent) and 32 overall.

WWU is ranked No.4 nationally in field-goal percentage at 46.8 (828-of-1771), No.7 in 3-point shooting at 38.4 (163-of-425) and No.20 in free-throw accuracy at 76.0 (377-of-496). The Vikings lead the GNAC in field-goal and 3-point accuracy and are third in free-throw shooting.

Forward Taylor Peacocke, who had a game-high 17 points in the first-round win over Central, leads WWU scorers, averaging 13.6 points per game. She is second in steals (1.5), and third in both rebounds (4.6) and assists (2.0). Peacocke has twice been named GNAC co-Player of the Week this season and picked to two all-tournament teams.

Peacocke, who had a consecutive free throw streak of 25 (two short of school record) this season, ranks 13th nationally in free-throw accuracy at 86.7 percent (91-of-105).

Center Kayla Bernsen, averaging 12.0 points, tops the Vikings in rebounds at 6.6 and has blocked 49 shots (1.7 avg.), second in the GNAC. Her 3.2 offensive rebounds per game lead the conference. Bernsen ranks 11th among WWU career leaders in blocks with 113.

Point guard Jenni White, who was last year's GNAC tournament MVP, earned first-team GNAC all-star honors announced Tuesday. She is averaging 11.2 points and leads the team in both assists at 3.6 and steals at 2.4.

Peacocke and Bernsen were second-team all-GNAC picks, and Colard received honorable mention. Colard is averaging 12.0 points.

Guard Katie Colard and Peacocke rank first and fifth among GNAC free throw shooters at 92.5 percent (62-of-67) and 86.7 percent (91-of-105), respectively. Bernsen and Sydney Donaldson are third and seventh in field-goal percentage at 53.4 percent (142-of-266) and 50.5 percent (96-of-190), respectively.

UPCOMING GAMES:

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 51 def. No.6 seed Central Washington 40

No.4 seed Simon Fraser 64 def. No.5 seed Saint Martin's 56

Fri., March 6

WWU 72 def. No.2 seed Seattle Pacific 67 OT

Simon Fraser 56 fell to No.1 seed Alaska Anchorage 59

Sat., March 7

WWU (21-8) vs. Alaska Anchorage (28-1), Championship Game, 5:15 p.m.

All games broadcast on either KBAI (930 AM) or KPUG (1170 AM) Radio and video streamed via internet at wwuvikings.com

ALASKA ANCHORAGE: The Seawolves, ranked No.1 in the latest USA Sports Today/NCAA Division II Top 25 Poll, are 28-1 overall and the GNAC regular-season champion at 17-1. They are working on a 16-game winning streak. UAA, which opened the season with 12 straight wins, has a balanced attack led by GNAC Defensive Player of the Year and twice second-team conference all-star 5-5 sophomore guard Kiki Robertson (7.8 ppg, 6.0 apg - 7th nat., 3.3 spg - 8th nat.). Robertson is one of four returning starters from last year's 19-9 team. The others are 5-8 senior guard Alli Madison (9.9 ppg, 4.9 rpg), 6-0 senior forward KeKe Wright (9.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) and 5-8 junior guard Jessica Madison (10.8 ppg, 4.0 rpg).

Another top returnee who has cracked the starting lineup this season for GNAC Coach of the Year Ryan McCarthy (3rd year, 64-20) is 5-8 junior guard Jenna Buchanan (11.1 ppg, 4.4 rpg). A standout transfer is GNAC Newcomer of the Year and first-team conference all-star 6-0 junior Megan Mullings (13.9 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 44 blocks) from South Mountain (Ari.) CC. UAA ranks first nationally in scoring margin (21.4) and steals (15.1), and fourth in rebound margin (10.8) and scoring offense (80.9). WWU holds a 28-17 series advantage, but has just six wins in the last 21 meetings.

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 117-34 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 3,137 points (Colard 1,200, Donaldson 885, White 794 and Pounds 258).

VIKINGS AMONG NATION'S BEST IN SHOOTING: WWU ranks fourth nationally in NCAA II in field-goal shooting (46.8, 828-of-1771), seventh in 3-point marksmanship (38.4, 163-of-425) and 20th in free-throw accuracy (76.0, 377-of-496). The Vikings lead the GNAC in field-goal and 3-point shooting and are second in free-throw accuracy.

COLARD MILESTONES: Katie Colard's four-year career total of 257 made 3-pointers broke the school record of 256 set by Amanda Dunbar (2007-11). Her total of 1,200 points ranks 11th among Viking leaders.

Colard, who tops the GNAC in free-throw accuracy at 92.5 (62-of-67) 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 86.2 percent (163-of-189), which is school-record pace.

NEXT BENCHMARK FOR DOLFO: Head coach Carmen Dolfo has 515 victories and needs three 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: Ninety-four of Bernsen's 191 rebounds, 49.2 percent, have come on the offensive glass. That leads the GNAC and is the second-best figure in school history. Ana Tuiaea, who went on to play at the University of Washington, had 49.5 percent (103 of 208) for the Vikings in 1993-94 ... WWU has held opponents under 70 points in nine of its last 10 contests with a season-best effort in holding Central to 40 on Wednesday... Peacocke has scored double-figures in 15 of her last 18 games and 23 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 2-5 against nationally ranked opponents, defeating No.6 Tampa FL, 85-56, and No.20 Seattle Pacific; 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 - Kiana 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.

March 6 - Colard scored a career-high 34 points, tied for seventh all-time in school history, as WWU overcame a 14-point second-half deficit to defeat Seattle Pacific, 72-67 in overtime, in a GNAC tourney semifinal.

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 515-191 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 515-191 (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 18 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 54 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 876 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 947 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 32 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:

Wed., March 4 - WWU opens GNAC tourney with 51-40 win over Central

Peacocke scores 17 points for Vikings, White 16

Stingy defense and the game-high 17 points of Peacocke helped WWU claim a 51-40 victory over Central Washington in an opening-round game of the 5th annual GNAC Tournament being held at Billings, Mont.

The triumph lifts the Vikings, the No.3 seed in the tourney, to 20-8 overall. Central, the No.6 seed, ended its season at 12-15. Jasmin Edwards led the Wildcats with 14 points.

The Vikings, who entered the contest ranked among the top 10 in NCAA Division II in every shooting percentage category, being second in field-goal percentage at 47.7 percent, shot a season-low 28.6 percent (18-of-63) in scoring a season-low 51 points.

But WWU also had one of its finest defensive performances of the campaign, allowing a season-low 40 points, holding Central to 31.7 percent shooting (13-of-41) from the floor, and forcing 14 turnovers while committing just six.

The first half featured three ties and five lead changes, but the Vikings scored the final six points of the period to take a 24-20 lead at halftime.

WWU then took control, holding the Wildcats to just one field goal in the first nine minutes of the second half and grabbing a 37-24 lead on a Donaldson layup with 11:32 remaining.

The margin remained in double digits the rest of the way.

White, last year's tourney MVP, had 16 points for WWU, which has won the last two GNAC tournaments. Peacocke and White combined to go 13-of-23 from the field, Peacocke hitting 6-of-11 and White 7-of-12.

Fri., March 6 - WWU defeats Seattle Pacific in OT, 72-67, in GNAC semifinal

Colard scores career-high 34 as Vikings rally from 14 points down

Colard poured in a career-high 34 points, helping WWU to overcome a 14-point second-half deficit and claim a 72-67 overtime victory over nationally ranked Seattle Pacific in a semifinal game at the 5th annual GNAC Tournament at Billings, Mont.

The Vikings, the No.3 seed in the tourney, improved to 21-8 and face No.1 seed and NCAA Division II No.1-ranked Alaska Anchorage in the championship game Saturday at 5:15 MST. The winner earns an automatic berth in next week's NCAA Division II National Tournament West Regional.

SPU, the No.2 seed and ranked No.20 in this week's USA Today Sports Top 25, fell to 21-6 despite the 24 points and nine rebounds of Aubree Callen.

WWU trailed by 14 points, 50-36, with 11:32 remaining, but used an 18-6 charge, with Colard scoring 11 of the points, to pull to within two, 56-54, with five minutes left.

SPU pushed the margin back to six, 62-56, inside the final 90 seconds, but the Vikings scored the final six points of regulation to force overtime, tying the score on Colard's driving layin with 12 seconds left.

WWU then scored the first six points of overtime, four of them by Donaldson, who had been held scoreless in regulation. Callen responded with five straight points to pull the Falcons within one, 68-67, with 1:04 left, but Briggs scored in the paint, and then Donaldson provided the final margin on two free throws with 21 seconds left.

Colard finished 12 of 22 from the field, including 6-of-11 on 3-pointers. Her six 3-pointers gave her a school-record 257 for her career. The 34 points tie Colard for seventh for a single game in WWU history and are the second-highest mark in the last five seasons.

The Vikings started quickly, jumping to a 9-0 lead in the first 2:30 of the contest, but SPU rallied and took a 33-24 halftime lead as WWU hit just 6-of-24 shots from the field the rest of the period.

The Falcons, who defeated the Vikings in both regular-season meetings this season, then extended the gap early in the second half, leading by 14 for the first time at 42-28 with 15:52 to play.

White had 13 points for WWU, which shot 50 percent (18-of-36) from the floor after halftime.

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