MVP White Leads Western Washington Past Simon Fraser
Jenni White (22) earned MVP honors as she led Western Washington to GNAC women's basketball title Saturday (Photo by Dan Levine).
Jenni White (22) earned MVP honors as she led Western Washington to GNAC women's basketball title Saturday (Photo by Dan Levine).

Saturday, March 8, 2014

LACEY, Wash. - Katie Colard scored 21 points and Tournament MVP Jenni White had 17 points, four assists and five steals as Western Washington rallied from a 42-32 halftime deficit to defeat Simon Fraser 78-74 and win the Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women's Basketball Championships Saturday night at Marcus Pavilion.

The Vikings, who also won last year’s tournament, earned the GNAC's automatic berth in next week's NCAA West Regional with the victory.  Simon Fraser, which was ranked third in this week's regional poll, will likely receive one of the five at-large berths.

In addition to Colard and White, Western Washington, which won for the 16th time in its last 20 games, also got a huge performance from freshman Taylor Peacocke who came off the bench to produce a 15-point, 11-rebound double double.

Erin Chambers, the GNAC's leading scorer, led the Clan with 28 points. Also in double figures for SFU were  Marie-Line Petit with 18 points, Katie Lowen with 13 and Chelsea Reist with 11.

White had 32 points and 13 assists in her two tournament contests, including a tournament-record nine assists in Friday’s win against Saint Martin’s.   Her steal total in Saturday’s game was just one off the tournament record set last year by WWU’s Trish Williams in the Vikings championship win over the Clan.

"I felt like Jenni started it (the comeback) even late in the first half," WWU coach Carmen Dolfo said.  "She had two early fouls and came back in and sparked us.  She got the tempo going and played with a lot of heart.  We made some key baskets at key times, and our guards - Katie (Colard), Jenni (White) and Taylor (Peacocke) - were great."

Simon Fraser bolted to an early 10-0 lead in the contest as Petit hit two treys and produced eight of those points.

The Clan eventually built their lead to 16 points (37-21) late in the first half before settling for a 42-32 lead at halftime as they shot 59.3 percent (16-of-27) in the half.

Colard, however, took over offensively in the second half scoring 16 of her points and Peacocke nearly had a double double in the second period alone (11 points, 8 rebounds).

Western climbed to within three points at 52-49 at the midway point of the half.    Simon Fraser pulled back ahead by eight on a foul shot by Chambers at 9:19 and baskets by Meg Wilson, who tied Peacocke for high rebounding honors with 11, and Katie Lowen at 7:51.

The Vikings, however, responded scoring nine straight points – five by Tia Briggs – to take their first lead of the game (61-60) on two free throws by Briggs with 5:54 left in the contest.

After that there were eight lead changes before a jumper with 3:16 left by Colard gave WWU the lead for good at 69-68.

Colard’s basket was the first of nine consecutive points by the Vikings, including four by Colard and three by Peacock.

Down by six inside the final minute, the Clan got a three-pointer by Chambers with 48 seconds remaining to cut its deficit in half.

After a steal by Reist, SFU had the opportunity to close to within one point or tie the game, but Chambers turned the ball over and Colard then hit one of two foul shots to ice the contest.

WWU, which outrebounded the Clan 42-30, will take a 19-9 record into the regional tournament.  SFU is also 19-9.

Both teams will learn whom they will play Sunday night as the NCAA will announce the qualifiers and the site for the tournament with a web cast on beginning at 7 p.m. Pacific time.

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