Western women’s basketball were eliminated from playoff contention in its final regular season game following a 76-63 loss to Montana State University Billings on Saturday night.
The Vikings (12-16, 8-12 GNAC) needed to beat MSUB (19-11, 12-8 GNAC) to secure the sixth and final spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference championships in Anchorage, Alaska.
The loss came on the heels of Senior Night where two women suited for their final game as Vikings; forward Hannah Stipanovich and guard Maia Barnett.
Freshman guard Emma Duff said she thought nerves played a factor in the Vikings’ play, but that her team didn’t quit.
“I think our team did a great job of fighting the whole time,” Duff said. “No one gave up.”
The Vikings finished the first quarter with a one point lead over the Yellowjackets, but weren’t able to keep the lead for the remainder of the game.
MSUB started the second quarter in tough man-to-man defense, making it difficult for the Vikings to connect on their shots.
The Yellowjackets then went on a run in the second quarter, creating some distance between the teams by outscoring Western 19-14. The Vikings trailed by four points heading into the second half 32-28.
MSUB led the Vikings for 28 minutes of the game, and Western led for only five minutes and 24 seconds. The game was tied for a total of five minutes and 34 seconds.
“We got down early,” Duff said. “We always dig ourselves into holes that are hard to get out of sometimes.”
Part of the reason Western was down early was the play of Yellowjackets senior forward Alisha Breen. Breen scored a season-high 32 points on 9-for-15 shooting while adding six rebounds. Breen played all but one minute Saturday night.
Western’s lone active senior Stipanovich had nine points, three rebounds and two assists. She played a total 32 minutes during her last game of her Western basketball career.
The last time the Vikings played MSUB, the Vikings were defeated 75-62 on the road Nov. 30.
MSU Billings matched up their best defender, Breen, on Stipanovich in order to contain her down low.
The Vikings’ switched to a full-court press in the fourth quarter trying to contain MSU Billings momentum, but it ultimately wasn’t enough.