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Women’s basketball aims for fifth straight tournament bid

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Women’s basketball aims for fifth straight tournament bid

Women's basketball huddles before their game against the Saints earlier this 2018-19 season.

Women's basketball huddles before their game against the Saints earlier this 2018-19 season.

Women's basketball huddles before their game against the Saints earlier this 2018-19 season.

Women's basketball huddles before their game against the Saints earlier this 2018-19 season.

Hanson Lee, Sports Editor

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With only four games left to go in the regular season, the Wildcats currently stand at fourth place in the GNAC with an overall record of 15-8 and a GNAC record of 10-6. As of now, the team has yet to clinch a tournament spot for the 2019 postseason, but with the GNAC qualifying the top six teams for the tournament, the Wildcats continue to hold the odds in their favor. Wildcat head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley said that the Wildcats still need to improve both offensively and defensively as a whole, but that trusting the process and continuing to compete everyday will be beneficial for the team’s overall growth.

“We gotta take one game at a time, give each game our best and let the chips fall where they may,” Richardson-Thornley said.

At the moment, the Wildcats are sitting behind Alaska Anchorage University (AAU), Northwest Nazarene University (NNU) and Simon Fraser University (SFU) in the GNAC standings. AAU, NNU and SFU have already clinched GNAC tournament spots for the postseason, with AAU and NNU holding the top two spots, boasting equivalent records of 23-1 overall and GNAC records of 15-1. SFU currently holds the third place spot in the GNAC standings with an overall record of 16-7 and a GNAC record of 12-4.

Last season, the Wildcats finished the regular season with an overall record of 15-14, qualifying for the 2018 GNAC tournament, but would fall to Montana State University Billings in the first round, 73-75. With Richardson-Thornley officially completing her first season at the helm of Wildcat basketball that year, Richardson-Thornley expressed that this year’s team has only been able to build and improve upon last year’s result.

“This year’s team isn’t what it is without last year’s team,” Richardson-Thornley said. “I think without the work that they put in last year, we wouldn’t be where we are this year.”

Wildcat guard Alexis Pana has high expectations for the team as the regular season comes to a close. The junior has been able to take her game to new heights in her third year as a Wildcat, averaging a team high of 15.0 points per game (PPG) to go alongside a team leading 110 assists. For Pana, it’s all about maintaining a high level of confidence for herself as well as her teammates.

“Randi always talks about sharing the love and I think we do really well with that,” Pana said.

Sophomore power forward Kassidy Malcolm has been a major presence on the court alongside Pana this season. In 23 games, Malcolm is averaging a solid 11.0 PPG and is boasting a team high of 9.1 rebounds per game. Right now, Malcolm stated that the team is staying focused on the impending regular season games that lie in front of them.

“We need to finish out the season strong and get the wins that we’re supposed to win,” Malcolm said.

In the last four seasons, the Wildcats have qualified for the GNAC tournament in each consecutive year, but have only been able to accumulate one tournament win during that time span. With high hopes that the Wildcats can make a postseason run in the 2019 GNAC tournament, Richardson-Thornley believes that this year’s squad is more than ready to do some damage when it truly counts. Richardson-Thornley put it clearly that the Wildcats’ potential end-of-season success and possible tournament heroics stand largely dependent on the team’s ability to stay confident and composed down the stretch on both ends of the court.

“The cool thing about our team is that we have always five people on the floor who can score, so it’s trusting each other and trusting what we do and playing team defense and team offense,” Richardson-Thornley said. “In order for this program to evolve and be at the level that we want, we want to be able to compete not just in the GNAC regular season, but in the GNAC tournament.”

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