Women's Game 1: Vikings Eliminate CWU 51-40
Play Video Jenni White goes inside for two of her 16 points in Wednesday's opening round victory (Photo by Aaron Selig).
Jenni White goes inside for two of her 16 points in Wednesday's opening round victory (Photo by Aaron Selig).

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

BILLINGS, Mont. - Stingy defense and a game-high 17 points by forward Taylor Peacocke  carried Western Washington to a 51-40 victory over Central Washington Wednesday in the opening game of the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships at Alterowitz Gymnasium.

The triumph lifts the Vikings, the No.3 seed in the tourney, to 20-8 overall.  They'll play No.2 seed and nationally  20th ranked Seattle Pacific (21-5) in Friday's first semifinal at noon. 

Central, the No.6 seed, ended its season at 12-15. 

The Vikings, who entered the contest ranked in the Top 10 in Division II in every shooting percentage category, including second in field goal percentage (47.7 percent), shot a season-low 28.6 percent (18-of-63) in scoring a season-low 51 points.

But WWU also had one of its finest defensive performances of the campaign, allowing a season-low 40 points, holding Central to 31.7 percent shooting (13-of-41) from the floor, and forcing 14 turnovers while committing just six.

Just one CWU player - GNAC Freshman of the Year Jasmin Edwards - was in double figures.  Edwards netted 14 points, connecting of 4-of-11 shots, including two of five three-pointers.  She also had a game-high three assists equaling WWU guard Jenni White's total in that category. 

The first half featured three ties and five lead changes, but the Vikings scored the final six points of the period to take a 24-20 lead at halftime, including a key three-pointer by White with five seconds left after Edwards missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with 24 seconds left preventing the Wildcats from possibly taking a one-point lead into the locker room.

WWU, which has now had 18 20-win seasons in 24 years under head coach Carmen Dolfo and 32 overall, then took control early in the second half, holding Central to just one field goal in the first nine minutes and grabbing a 37-24 lead on a Sydney Donaldson layup with 11:32 remaining.

The margin remained in double digits the rest of the way as the Vikings claimed their 89th all-time win against CWU in 99 contests.

White, last year’s tourney MVP, had 16 points for WWU, which has won the last two GNAC tournaments. Peacocke and White combined to go 13-of-23 from the field as Peacocke made 6-of-11 and White converted on 7-of-12.

The winner of the championship game on Saturday night will earn an automatic berth in next week's NCAA West Regionals.  The regional tournament starts on Friday, March 13.  The championship game is scheduled for Monday night.