Women’s basketball season ends in Seattle

Despite being down 12 points with four minutes left to the number one team in the GNAC, CWU Women’s Basketball still had some fight left in them. Alaska Anchorage saw their lead fade over the final minutes of the game, but ultimately won the contest, 79-77, ending the Wildcats’ season

Austin Lane & Scott Wilson, Sports Editor (The Observer) & Sports Director (Central News Watch)

Central News Watch

CWU Women’s Basketball entered the GNAC championships last weekend as the number five seed in the tournament. In the first round, the team took on Simon Fraser University (SFU), the number four seed in the tournament.

CWU came out playing some of their best defense all season, holding SFU to only seven first quarter points. The Wildcats led the Clan 34-28 at halftime. Senior guard Alexis Pana went into halftime with only two points, but scored 11 in the second half to finish with 13 points in the game. Her strong second half performance helped carry CWU to victory, beating SFU 76-60. 

After the win, head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley gave her team credit for being able to win a “grind-it-out” type of game.

“I don’t think things came all that easy to us on both sides of the ball,” Richardson-Thornley said. “Our girls stayed with it, stayed the course, didn’t get deterred and continued to fight.”

The win gave CWU a birth into the semifinals where top seeded University of Alaska Anchorage (UAA) awaited them. 

UAA was 19-1 in conference play during the regular season and 2-0 against CWU going into the matchup. 

CWU found themselves down by as many as 15 points in the second half, but the Wildcats went on a run that gave the team a chance to cement their names into CWU athletics history. 

With UAA up nine and 2:14 left in the game, senior guard Taylor Shaw knocked down a three, but UAA answered with two free throws. Sophomore guard Brianna Phiakhamngon knocked down a three pointer, then Pana hit another three to cut the lead down to two points with 50 seconds left.

Both teams went back and forth until nine seconds were left on the clock and Phiakhmangon was fouled on a three point shot attempt, sending her to the line to shoot three free throws with CWU down 79-77.

Phiakhamngon missed the first two free throws, forcing her to purposely miss the last one. CWU did not come up with the rebound and in the matter of thirty seconds CWU went from playing in the GNAC championship game, to potentially playing their final game of the season. UAA won the game 79-77.

After the game, Richardson-Thornley got emotional talking about the team’s ability to stick with UAA and not give up until the final whistle.

“I couldn’t be more proud of the group,” Richardson-Thornley said. “It was a tough game for us… they faced adversity in many facets of the game tonight and they stood the course and did enough to stay in the game.”

The Wildcats still had a shot at making the West Regional tournament, but the NCAA DII voting committee chose to take Cal Poly Pomona instead, ending the Wildcats’ season and ending the collegiate careers of five seniors on the team. 

One of those seniors, forward Taylor Shaw, said she was confident the committee would select CWU.

“It’s okay, we can still be playing,” Shaw said to her mom after the UAA game was over.

“It was sad after the game, but we were all still so focused, so ready to keep playing,” Shaw said. “We had so much confidence in ourselves and how we’ve been playing lately with our best basketball, so we were really confident the committee would see that and choose us to keep playing.”