Yellowjackets Get The Last Sting In Semifinal Win
Montana State Billings shot 47.4% from three-point range on the way to defeating Central Washington 75-62 to advance to the GNAC Championships finals.
Montana State Billings shot 47.4% from three-point range on the way to defeating Central Washington 75-62 to advance to the GNAC Championships finals.

Friday, March 3, 2023

BELLINGHAM, Wash. –  Montana State Billings is headed to the finals of the 2023 GNAC Championships after defeating defending tournament-champion Central Washington, 75-62, in the semifinals.

The Yellowjackets were led by sophomore guard Aspen Giese who notched 20 points on 8 of 17  from the field and 2 of 5 from three-point range. Giese also finished with eight rebounds, three assists and a steal. The majority of her points came in the critical second half where MSUB managed to pull away from the Wildcats.   

The two teams were inseparable in the first half, trading the lead six times on the way to a 29-29 score at halftime. GNAC Freshman of the Year Asher Cai set the pace for Central Washington in the first 20 minutes, notching 10 points on 4 of 5 from the field and 2 of 3 from three-point range. Cai went on to finish with 18 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals.  Kortney Nelson was the hot hand for the Yellowjackets in the opening stanza, knocking down eight points, half coming from the free-throw line.

Montana State Billings presented a tough defense for the Wildcats, forcing 11 turnovers in the first half.  That pressure manifested in 14 points off of turnovers to open the game. The Yellowjackets also managed to limit senior center  Samantha Bowman to seven points in the first half, though the all-time GNAC-leading rebounder still snagged 11 boards for good measure.

Senior forward Taryn Shelley played a key role for MSUB in the first half where she had seven points to go with one rebound, a steal and a block. That block came when she shutdown a Bowman three-point bid six minutes into the game. Shelley finished the game with 17 points while shooting 58.3 from the field and 75% from long range. She rounded out her scoreline with six rebounds, one assist, one steal and one block.

In the second half, Montana State Billings looked clinical on the court, continuing to compromise CWU’s scoring opportunities. In the second frame, the Yellowjackets held the Wildcats to just 36% from the field while shooting 53% from the field themselves. Montana State Billings also continued to build on its momentum from the first half, including a three-point dagger from junior forward Natalie Andreas on her first points of the game to take the lead for the final time.

It was a balanced scoring effort MSUB that took the edge, with eight of the nine Yellowjackets that played scoring two or more points. Central Washington point guard Valerie “Sunshine” Huerta, Bowman and Cai combined to score 55 of the Wildcats’ 62 total points. Cariann Kunkel joined Giese, Shelley and Nelson in the double digits. Kunkel and Nelson both finished with 10 points.

Montana State Billings advances to the finals of the GNAC Championships and will face either Seattle Pacific or host Western Washington on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. in Bellingham.