Yellowjackets Rise Into Top-10 in WBCA Poll
The Yellowjackets are off to a 5-1 start in 2023-24, after being selected as the preseason favorite by the GNAC coaches.
The Yellowjackets are off to a 5-1 start in 2023-24, after being selected as the preseason favorite by the GNAC coaches.

Tuesday, November 21, 2023
by Thomas Lal

PORTLAND, Ore. – Thanksgiving Thursday will mark the calm before the storm for Great Northwest Athletic Conference women’s basketball teams, with a full slate of games on tap over the holiday weekend.

Nine games on Friday and 10 on Saturday across six different tournaments will keep the conference’s teams busy all week.

Leading the way into the busy weekend slate is Montana State Billings (5-1) which climbed to No. 10 in the latest WBCA rankings released on Tuesday. The Yellowjackets were also slated at No. 14 in the latest D2CSC national rankings, while checking in at No. 1 in the west region. Western Washington was the other GNAC school in the national rankings, appearing at No. 21 in the WBCA poll and No. 17 in the D2CSC rankings.

GNAC Women's Basketball Schedule - Nov. 24-25
Tournament Location GNAC Teams Competing
Concordia Thanksgiving Tournament Irvine, Calif. NNU, SFU
Azusa Pacific Thanksgiving Classic Azusa, Calif. WOU
Mines Thanksgiving Classic Golden, Colo. MSUB
Metro State Thanksgiving Tournament Denver, Colo. SPU
North Star Invitational Fairbanks, Alaska UAF
Lynda Goodrich Classic Bellingham, Wash. CWU, WWU

This Week's Storylines

ON A ROLL: Northwest Nazarene looks to have found its early stride last week where it picked up three straight wins to improve to 3-2 on the young season. The Nighthawks opened the week with an 83-71 win over Cal Poly Humboldt in Nampa on Monday before travelling to Ellensburg where they took a 61-54 win over Westmont on Friday. They capped off the week on Saturday with an 83-58 decision over Whitworth.

Freshman guard/forward Kendall Clark was among the GNAC’s leaders last week, averaging 15.5 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 57.1% from the field and knocking down 7 of 8 from the free throw line. On the season, Clark leads NNU and ranks ninth in the conference with an average of 14.2 points per game. Northwest Nazarene will head south this week for the CUI Thanksgiving Tournament where it will face Point Loma on Friday and host Concordia (Calif.) on Saturday.

BELLINGHAM BECKONS: After improving to 3-1 last week with a 62-46 win at No. 12 Azusa Pacific, Western Washington returns home this week to host Lynda Goodrich Classic. Central Washington will also make the trip to Bellingham for the tournament after moving to 4-3 on the season. The two GNAC teams will face MSU Moorhead and Hawaii Pacific across the tournament.

With both the Vikings and Wildcats in the tournament, fans in Bellingham will have the chance to see two of the most exciting players in the conference in action. Western Washington senior forward Brooke Walling has averaged a double-double of 19 points and 10.8 rebounds per game through the early portion of the season to rank second in the conference in scoring and first in rebounding. Meanwhile, sophomore guard Asher Cai has been electric for CWU, leading the GNAC and ranking seventh in Division II with 22.7 points per game.

IN THE GREAT WHITE NORTH: The northern-most state will see its fair share of activity on the holiday weekend as the Nanooks host the Mt. McKinley Bank North Star Invitational and the Seawolves host Adams State for a pair of games. Alaska will face Cal State San Bernardino on Friday before closing out the tournament against Covenant College on Saturday.

Senior forward Emma Wass has been brilliant on the boards for UAF to start the season and leads Division II with 78 total rebounds while averaging 8.3 points per game. Junior guard Destiny Reimers has been the Nanooks’ leading scorer through the early portion of the season, averaging 10.7 points per game.

Alaska Anchorage comes into the week after hosting a pair of exhibition games last week during the Great Alaska Shootout and will face Adams State for a pair of counting contests as it aims to improve its 2-1 record. The Seawolves offense has been led by junior Jazzpher Evans with 15.7 points per game while shooting 52.9% from the field. Junior Tori Hollingshead has been the most efficient shooter in the conference to start the season, leading the GNAC and ranking seventh in Division II with a .692 field goal percentage.

TURKEY DAY APPETIZER: Simon Fraser and Saint Martin’s will both begin the Thanksgiving weekend early with games on Tuesday. The Red Leafs will host MSU Moorhead while Saint Martin’s plays host to Evergreen State. Simon Fraser will then travel to the CUI Thanksgiving Tournament on Friday and Saturday while SMU will head to California to face Cal State San Marcos on Saturday.

Simon Fraser comes into week riding a four-game win streak, the second longest of any team in the conference, after taking wins over Cal State East Bay, 67-65, and Stanislaus State, 78-59, last week. Junior forward Gemma Cutler has been among the league’s best defenders this season and leads Division II with 25 total blocks while her 3.57 blocks per game rank seventh in the division.

Saint Martin’s junior guard Lauryn Morris also put her name among the Division II leaders last week by recording back-to-back double-doubles to lift herself into a tie for second in the division with two on the campaign. Morris has been the top rebounding player in every game of the season for SMU and also ranks fourth on the team with an average of 9.8 points per game.

DUELING IN DENVER: Both Montana State Billings and Seattle Pacific will head to Denver, Colo., this week with each team competing in a tournament across Friday and Saturday. The Yellowjackets will be participating in the Colorado Mines Thanksgiving Classic while the Falcons will take the court for the Metro State Thanksgiving Tournament.

Montana State Billings will face Regis on Friday before taking on host Colorado Mines on Saturday. The MSUB offense has been led by senior forward Kola Bad Bear with an average of 15.7 points per game to go with 5.2 rebounds per contest and a .533 field goal percentage. Bad Bear also leads the team from beyond the three-point arc with a .500 percentage.

Seattle Pacific it set to take on Colorado Christian on Friday before facing host MSU Denver on Saturday. The Falcons have been led by junior forward Olivia Mayer with 11.3 points and 9.5 rebounds per game. Mayer notched her second straight double-double last week in SPU’s game against No. 12 Azusa Pacific with 13 points and 12 rebounds.


GNAC in the National & Regional Rankings

The WBCA Division II rankings and the D2CSC rankings are released every Tuesday throughout the season and are the two leading polls nationally. The WBCA top-25 is voted on by a panel of coaches, while the D2CSC top-25 is a poll constructed by sports information directors at Division II schools.

MSUB jumped five spots from its preseason ranking of No. 15 in the WBCA poll, elevating into the top-10. The Yellowjackets also jumped up seven spots in the D2CSC poll, overtaking WWU as the top-ranked GNAC team. The Vikings cracked into the WBCA national poll at No. 21 after receiving votes in the preseason rankings, and moved down seven spots to No. 17 in the latest D2CSC poll.

WBCA National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Preseason 15. MSUB RV WWU -- --
Nov. 21 10. MSUB 21. WWU -- --
D2CSC National Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Nov. 14 10. WWU 21. MSUB -- --
Nov. 21 14. MSUB 17. WWU -- --
D2CSC West Region Rankings
Poll Team 1 Team 2 Team 3 Team 4
Nov. 14 1. WWU 3. MSUB 7. UAA 9. CWU
Nov. 21 1. MSUB 2. WWU 7. UAA RV CWU

GNAC Women's Basketball in the NCAA Statistical Rankings

Through games on Nov. 19.

Team Rankings (Top-30)
Assist/Turnover Ratio: 16. MSUB, 1.31
Assists Per Game: 26. WOU, 17.6
Blocks Per Game: 6. WWU, 7.0; 16. SFU, 5.7
Field Goal Percentage Defense: 27. WWU, 33.2
Free Throw Percentage: 15. CWU, 82.5
Defensive Rebounds Per Game: 18. WWU, 31.8
Offensive Rebounds Per Game: 24. UAA, 16.7
Steals Per Game: 12. UAA, 15.0
Three-Point Percentage: 30. UAA, 39.1
Fewest Turnovers Per Game: 10. MSUB, 11.8
Individual Rankings (Top-30)
Assists: 12. Makenna Gardner, SFU, 22; 12. Aspen Giese, MSUB, 22; 12. Destiny Reimers, UAF, 22; 21. Emma McKenney, UAF, 21; 21. Sophia Wisotzki, SFU, 21; 28. Riley Dkystra, WWU, 20; 28. Triniti Youngblood, WOU, 20
Blocks: 1. Gemma Cutler, SFU, 25; 5. Brooke Walling, WWU, 14; 30. Sarah Lamet, SMU, 7
Blocks Per Game: 7. Gemma Cutler, SFU, 3.57; 8. Brooke Walling, WWU, 3.50
Double-Doubles: 2. Brooke Walling, WWU, 3; 10. Asher Cai, CWU, 2; 10. Capri Sims, CWU, 2; 10. Olivia Mayer, SPU, 2; 10 Lauryn Morris, SMU, 2
Field Goal Attempts: 1. Asher Cai, CWU, 144; 2. Sunny Huerta, 111; 4. Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 99; 5. Sophia Wisotzki, SFU, 83; 8. Cali McClave, WOU, 79; 11. Destiny Reimers, UAF, 75; 13. Emma McKenney, UAF, 74; 22. Gemma Cutler, SFU, 68; 28. Kayla Johnson, UAF, 65
Field Goal Percentage: 15. Tori Hollingshead, UAA, 69.2
Field Goals: 1. Asher Cai, CWU, 52; 3. Gemma Cutler, SFU, 42; 3. Sunny Huerta, CWU, 42; 9. Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 38; 17. Brooke Walling, WWU, 33; 17. Sophia Wisotzki, SFU, 33; 19. Kola Bad Bear, MSUB, 32; 21. Cali McClave, WOU, 31; 27. Kayla Johnson, UAF, 30
Free Throw Attempts: 4. Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 45; 7. Asher Cai, CWU, 41; 13. Kola Bad Bear, MSUB, 36; 13. Kortney Nelson, MSUB, 36; 22. Anjel Galbraith, SMU, 33; 23. Sophia Wisotzki, SFU, 32; 28. Emma McKenney, UAF, 29
Free Throws: 5. Asher Cai, CWU, 36; 5. Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 36; 14. Kortney Nelson, MSUB, 28; 16. Kola Bad Bear, MSUB, 27; 23. Sunny Huerta, CWU, 24; 25. Emma McKenney, UAF, 23; 25. Sophia Wisotzki, SFU, 23
Minutes Per Game: 3. Asher Cai, CWU, 39.31; 26. Brooke Walling, WWU, 37.17; 29. Sunny Huerta, CWU, 37.00
Points Per Game: 7. Asher Cai, CWU, 22.7
Rebounds: 1. Emma Wass, UAF, 78; 3. Asher Cai, CWU, 68; 4. Ellen Silva, UAF, 63; 5. Capri Sims, CWU, 62; 6. Gemma Cutler, SFU, 55; 18. Ana McClave, WOU, 44; 21. Makenna Gardner, SFU, 43; 21. Brooke Walling, WWU, 43
Defensive Rebounds Per Game: 14. Brooke Walling, WWU, 8.5; 18. Emma Wass, UAF, 8.2; 28. Asher Cai, CWU, 7.4
Offensive Rebounds Per Game: 11. Capri Sims, CWU, 5.3
Rebounds Per Game: 20. Brooke Walling, WWU, 10.8
Steals: 19. Makenna Gardner, SFU, 13
Three-Point Attempts: 1. Asher Cai, CWU, 64; 2. Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 46; 6. Emma McKenney, UAF, 41; 9. Grace Killins, SFU, 40; 9. Shayla Montague, MSUB, 40; 12. Sunny Huerta, CWU, 38; 14. Cali McClave, WOU, 37
Three-Pointers: 1. Asher Cai, CWU, 19; 1. Shayla Montague, MSUB, 19; 13. Sunny Huerta, CWU, 13; 13. Grace Killins, SFU, 13; Jessica Wisotzki, SFU, 13
GNAC Women's Basketball Players of the Week
Date Offensive Player of the Week
Nov. 6 Asher Cai, Central Washington
Nov. 13 Brooke Walling, Western Washington
Nov. 20 Asher Cai, Central Washington

Player of the Week - Asher Cai, Central Washington

Second-career player of the week – second this season.

Cai led all GNAC players in scoring last week, averaging 27.5 points per game. The guard started her week with 28 points – the most by a GNAC player this season – and eight rebounds against Cal State LA. Cai followed with an efficient 10-for-13 shooting performance in the team’s 84-71 win over Westmont, scoring 27 points while adding five rebounds and a pair of steals. Overall on the week Cai shot 52.6% (20-for-38) including a mark of 43.8% (7-for-16) from 3-point range.

“Asher is an extremely hard worker in terms of her self-development, and that provides her with a lot of confidence when she steps onto the floor,” said CWU head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley. “I was extremely proud of her this last Saturday. She was extremely efficient and took really great shots, and she made some big shots when we needed them. Having that available to me as a coach is a luxury – when we need a bucket, she can get us one. Beyond the scoring aspect of her game is her rebounding. She has provided a consistent presence on the boards for us this year, and that’s huge for us stepping into that role. Last year she scored a lot in the arc, but this year she has done a good job of developing her game and her ability to score at all three levels.”

Also Nominated: Tori Hollingshead, UAA; Kayla Johnson, UAF; Aspen Giese, MSUB; Kendall Clark, NNU; Lauryn Morris, SMU; Makenna Gardner, SFU; Cali McClave, WOU; Brooke Walling, WWU.

2023-24 GNAC Women's Basketball Championships

The 2023-24 GNAC Women’s Basketball Championships will be held March 7-9 at Nicholson Pavilion on the campus of Central Washington University in Ellensburg, Wash. The top-six teams in the final GNAC regular-season standings will advance to the single-elimination tournament. The winner of the event will earn the conference’s automatic berth into the NCAA West Region Championships.

2023-24 All-Tournament Selections

2023 CCA Canadian Tip-Off Classic
Nov. 3-5 at Langley, B.C. (Simon Fraser, Host)
Alaska: Ellen Silva, F
Central Washington: Asher Cai, G; Sunny Huerta, G
Simon Fraser: Jessica Wisotzki, G

D2CCAA Tipoff Classic at the Trailhead
Nov. 3-5 at Billings, Mont. (Montana State Billings, Host)
Montana State Billings: Kola Bad Bear, F; Dyauni Boyce, F

GNAC/PacWest Crossover
Nov. 10-11 at Honolulu, Hawaii (Hawaii Pacific, Host)
Alaska Anchorage: Jazzpher Evans, G (MVP); Tori Hollingshead, F
Montana State Billings: Chloe Williams, G; Kola Bad Bear, F

WWU Veterans Day Classic
Nov. 10-11 at Bellingham, Wash. (Western Washington, Host)
Seattle Pacific: Olivia Mayer, F
Western Washington: Brooke Walling, F (MVP); Aspen Garrison, F; Riley Dykstra, G

2023 Warrior Classic
Nov. 17-18 at Turlock, Calif. (Stanislaus State, Host)
Simon Fraser: Makenna Gardner, G (MVP); Jessica Wisotzki, G/F; Sophia Wisotzki, G
Rank Team (1st Place Votes) 2022-23 GNAC Record (Finish) Points
1. Montana State BIllings (5) 25-8 14-4 (2nd) 94
2. Western Washington (4) 24-4 16-2 (1st) 91
3. Alaska Anchorage (1) 18-10 10-8 (4th) 75
4. Simon Fraser 10-13 8-10 (6th) 68
5. Central Washington 21-9 12-6 (3rd) 66
6. Seattle Pacific 15-13 9-9 (5th) 51
7. Northwest Nazarene 11-15 7-11 (T7th) 42
8. Saint Martin's 10-16 6-12 (9th) 27
9. Western Oregon 13-13 7-11 (T7th) 19
10. Alaska 4-21 1-17 (10th) 17

 Points awarded on a 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1 basis.

Preseason Player of the Year: Brooke Walling, Western Washington

Name School Pos. Ht. Yr. Hometown
*!$ Brooke Walling Western Washington F 6-3 Sr. Vancouver, Wash.
*!# Jessica Wisotzki Simon Fraser G/F 6-2 Sr. Langley, B.C.
*! Sunny Huerta Central Washington G 5-4 Jr. Whittier, Calif
*!+ Vishe' Rabb Alaska Anchorage F 5-9 Sr. Springfield, Minn.
%$ Kortney Nelson Montana State Billings G 5-8 Sr. Scobey, Mont.
*% Anjel Galbraith Saint Martin's G 5-5 Sr. Vallejo, Calif.
*&@ Asher Cai Central Washington G 5-9 So. Colfax, Wash.
^$ Riley Dykstra Western Washington G 5-10 Jr. Everson, Wash.
*@ Gemma Cutler Simon Fraser F 6-2 Jr. North Vancouver, B.C.
* Jazzpher Evans Alaska Anchorage G 5-6 Jr. Shorewood, Ill.
Schuyler Berry Seattle Pacific C 6-3 Jr. Portland, Ore.
*% Cali McClave Western Oregon G 5-9 Jr. Corvallis, Ore.
@ Shayla Montague Montana State Billings G 5-11 Sr. Billings, Mont.
@ Dyauni Boyce Montana State Billings F 5-11 Jr. Winifred, Mont.
Mason Oberg Western Washington G 5-5 So. Vancouver, Wash.

*Unanimous Selection | &-2022-23 GNAC Freshman of the Year | +-2022-23 GNAC Newcomer of the Year| !-2022-23 First Team All-GNAC | %-2022-23 Second Team All-GNAC | @-2022-23 Honorable Mention All-GNAC | ^-2021-22 GNAC Freshman of the Year | #-2021-22 Second Team All-GNAC | $-2021-22 Honorable Mention All-GNAC