Breen, Kane Power Yellowjackets Into Women's Semis
Breen led all scorers with 26 points in the contest. Kane finished the night with 25. Photo by Skip Hickey.
Breen led all scorers with 26 points in the contest. Kane finished the night with 25. Photo by Skip Hickey.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

ANCHORAGE, Alaska. – Despite 20-point performances from a pair of Montana State Billings standouts, it was a defensive stop that pushed the Yellowjackets past Central Washington as they took a 75-73 win in the opening quarterfinal matchup of the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Up two with 3.1 seconds left in the contest, Montana State Billings’ Vanessa Stavish drew a charge against Central Washington’s Alexis Pana to give MSUB its third 20-win season in program history.

The Yellowjackets completed the season sweep to send the Wildcats home after a 15-14 campaign. With the victory, MSUB advances to play No. 1 seed Northwest Nazarene in the semifinals on Friday at 5:15 p.m. (Alaska time).

Montana State Billings’ seniors Alisha Breen and Rylee Kane provided a majority of the Yellowjackets’ offense. Breen finished the night with 26 points on 10 of 19 shooting while Kane pumped in 25 points, nine of which came from the free-throw line. The Yellowjackets improved to 20-11.

Central Washington’s Taylor Baird paced the Wildcats with 18 points while Jasmin Edwards and Taylor Shaw supplied 13 each. As a team, the ‘Cats shot 42.9 percent from the field and outscored MSUB in the paint 46-28.

It was a tale of two quarters for the Yellowjackets in the first half. Montana State Billings shot nearly 67 percent from the field in the opening stanza but was limited to 2 of 13 shooting the following quarter.  

Deadlocked at 10 during the 5:13 mark of the first quarter, the Yellowjackets went on a 13-2 spurt to give themselves a 23-12 advantage. Breen tallied eight points during the run.

Despite Montana State Billings shooting 75 percent from behind the three-point line, Central Washington kept the score within reach after corralling 10 offensive rebounds for nine second-chance points. Starting the game 0 for 7 from beyond the arc, the Wildcats nailed their first three-pointer of the game with 53 seconds left in the first half after Pana converted from the right wing to cut MSUB’s lead 39-33 heading into halftime. Baird led CWU with 12 points.

Shifting her way through traffic at the 3:04 mark of the third quarter, Pana brought the Wildcats within six after her lay-in made the score 45-39. Shaw tacked on CWU’s 42nd point of the contest after knocking down a three-pointer with 1:54 on the clock.

Central Washington’s Kaelie Flores tied the contest with 3:04 left in the game after nailing a 12-foot turn-around jumper to level things at 66. Kane responded, however, as she flipped up a right-handed lay-in while drawing a foul. Vanessa Collins extended the run to five after a steal and easy layup on the successive possession to give MSUB a 71-66 lead.