The Walla Walla Community College women’s basketball team had a seemingly comfortable 26-point second-half lead over Skagit Valley in the semifinals Saturday in the NWAC Tournament.
The Cardinals erased the deficit, and even took the lead for a short time, before the Warriors got two late free throws and a layup from Cierra Jo McKeown (Touchet) to post a 67-63 victory and advance to the title game in Everett.
“We struggled a bit,” WWCC coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “Skagit had to say ‘we are down by 26 and we are going to press and shoot 3s.’ That’s something they don’t do and we weren’t prepared and panicked. We are moving on, that’s all that matters.”
WWCC, in the title game for the first time since 2011, will play East Region rival Spokane at 2:30 p.m. Sunday in the championship game. The Sasquatch upset tournament favorite Umpqua 63-58 to advance.
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“It’s exciting we are going to keep it in the East,” Hazeltine said. “We are going to have to play some good defense to win it all. They looked good today. We have to dig deep for one more game.”
The Warriors, who got a game-high 17 points from McKeown, led 35-26 after the first quarter, and 57-37 after three quarters.
The Cardinals poured on a full-court press in the fourth quarter, forced turnovers and made their shots down the stretch.
After taking a 63-62 lead, Skagit Valley fouled McKeown with 48.3 seconds remaining. The East Region Freshman of the Year calmly sank both free throws for a 64-63 lead.
McKeown converted an uncontested layup with 9.2 seconds left and, after Emily Pillman missed a 3-point shot, WWCC’s Kortney Hutchinson was fouled on the rebound.
Hutchinson made one of two free throws to put the game out of reach — 67-63 with 2.3 seconds left on the clock.
“Kortney got the biggest rebound of the game,” Hazeltine said.
Marquel Greene added 12 points for the Warriors, while Jade Skidmore added 11 points, 11 rebounds and four assists.
Emily Yost, Makayla Lancaster and Adiya Jones-Smith each had 11 points for the Cardinals.
WALLA WALLA COMMUNITY COLLEGE: Cierra Jo McKeown 17, Greene 12, Jensen 1, Aycock 4, Skidmore 11, Hutchinson 2, Reddish, Hancock 4, Ferenz 7, James 9. Totals: 26-51 9-14 67.
SKAGIT VALLEY: Chau, Lnacaster 11, Bryan 2, Miller 10, Hayes 8, Yost 11, Ludwig 7, Pillman 3, Jones-Smith 11. Totals: 26-71 4-7 63.
Highlights — Jade Skidmore (W) 11 rebs, 4 assts, Kortney Hutchinson (W) 7 rebs, 3 assts; Emily Hancock (W) 6 rebs; Deidra Miller (S) 5 rebs, 2 assts; Emily Yost (S) 5 rebs, 2 stls.