Breen Day: Alisha Leads Yellowjackets To Tourney Semifinals
Janiel Olson (right) embraces Rylee Kane at the end of MSU Billings' win over Northwest Nazarene. Olson's 17 rebounds tied the GNAC Championships record.
Janiel Olson (right) embraces Rylee Kane at the end of MSU Billings' win over Northwest Nazarene. Olson's 17 rebounds tied the GNAC Championships record.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

LACEY, Wash. – After being on the ropes for the first three quarters of the contest, No. 3 seed Montana State Billings used a spirited fourth quarter to advance to the GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships semifinals with a 70-65 win over No. 6 seed Northwest Nazarene Thursday at Saint Martin’s University’s Marcus Pavilion.

First Team All-GNAC forward Alisha Breen the led the way with 24 points, connecting on 9 of 19 from the field while playing all 40 minutes for the Yellowjackets. She scored 17 of her points in the second half as Montana State Billings outscored Northwest Nazarene 41-31 for the half and 25-16 in the fourth quarter. Janiel Olson finished with a double-double of 14 points and 17 rebounds. In the process, she tied the GNAC Championships record for rebounds set by Saint Martin’s Megan Wiedeman in 2014. The Yellowjackets finished the game shooting 41.1 percent from the field.

Taylor Simmons led Northwest Nazarene with 20 points, connecting on 9 of 13 from the field, to go along with five rebounds. Ellie Logan added 15 points. After shooting 53 percent in a red-hot first half, the Crusaders cooled to finish at 40.6 percent from the field (26-64).

With the win, Montana State Billings (20-9 overall) will advance to a rematch with No. 2 seed Western Washington in the semifinals on Friday at 5:15 p.m. Northwest Nazarene finishes their season at 12-15.

With nothing to lose, the No. 6 seed Crusaders staked themselves to an early lead and held onto it for most of the first half. Logan converted a three-point play to open a 5-0 lead early in the first quarter. The Yellowjackets cut the lead to one on a couple of occasions, using Breen’s three-pointer with 1:23 left to come within 17-16 at the quarter break. Rylee Kane gave MSUB their only lead with a lay-in early in the second quarter, but NNU replied with a 9-2 run, culminating on Logan’s lay-in with 5:39 left, to go back up 26-20. Simmons gave the Crusaders their biggest lead, 28-20, with her lay-up with 4:09 left, as NNU held off a late run to take a 32-29 halftime lead.

The third quarter played continued to favor the Crusaders, with NNU building a 10-point lead on CoCo Gall’s jumper with 4:08 left before the Yellowjackets came back to close to within four at the end of the frame. In the fourth quarter, Montana State Billings found their shooting touch and took advantage of a six-minute scoring drought by NNU, reclaiming the lead for good when Breen’s three-pointer made it 55-54 with 5:41 left. Olson would put the game out of reach when her two free throws made it an eight-point game with seven seconds left.