Jackets sweep Vikings to inch closer in GNAC race - KTVQ.com | Q2 | Continuous News Coverage | Billings, MT

Jackets sweep Vikings to inch closer in GNAC race

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After falling in a heart-breaker on Thursday to Simon Fraser, the MSUB women’s basketball team rebounded with a hard-fought 48-46 Great Northwest Athletic Conference win against Western Washington on the road for the season sweep of the Vikings.

MSU Billings (18-8, 14-4 GNAC) lost a game against SFU with .6 seconds left on the clock by a pair of free-throws. This time, the Yellowjackets held on in another down-to-the-wire game for the 2-point victory. MSUB snapped a seven-game win streak by Western Washington (19-7-15-3 GNAC), bookending the Vikings’ streak with Yellowjacket wins. MSUB remains in third place in the conference standings with Western Washington holding at second with two games left in the regular season.

The ‘Jackets used a 13-0 run in the second quarter and had to withstand a scoring surge by the Vikings in the fourth quarter for the win. MSUB’s Alisha Breen made a 3-point basket at 5:46 left in the game to put the Yellowjackets up 48-42. MSUB Billings would not score again in the game, limiting WWU to two more baskets to hang on for the victory.

Breen finished as MSUB’s high-scorer with 16 points, adding in five rebounds, a team-high three assists, one block, and four steals. Monica Grimsrud scored 13 points while also collecting five rebounds. Marissa Van Atta led the team in rebounds with eight and had seven points for the ‘Jackets.

“It was such a dog-fight tonight,” MSUB head coach Kevin Woodin said. “I am really proud of our team. We had a difficult loss on Thursday and sometimes it is very hard to respond to a last-second defeat. It takes a lot of mental toughness to go out and play again, but our team tonight showed their grit and toughness, so I am extremely proud of them for gutting out this win.”

“We got off to decent start in the first quarter, and then early in the second quarter the game got away from us,” Woodin continued. “We were having a hard time guarding and I thought we were impatient on several possession. But, we made a run at them the last half of the quarter which was critical; I think that was a big key to the game.”

It was an intense game from the start. The Yellowjackets opened the game with 6-2 lead. WWU responded with layups from Kayla Bernsen and Aleisha Hathaway, but MSUB’s Rylee Kane broke the tie with a steal on a Vikings inbounds pass when she stopped and hit a mid-range jump shot inside the key.

Western Washington began to take advantage of a breakdown in the MSUB defense, making two driving layups and embarking on a 6-0 run. Breen made back-to-back buckets in response, first picking up a bad WWU pass and following through with a short jump shot and then sinking another basket inside the key.

Kiana Gandy gave Western Washington the lead in the first quarter with the first 3-point shot at 15-14.

Grimsrud knotted the game with a free-throw, but seven straight points from Taylor Peacocke drove the Vikings up 22-15.

In the second quarter, the Yellowjackets took the lead with a 13-0 run to take a 30-24 advantage at half-time. Breen started and ended the drive with a 3-point basket and layup. Grimsrud added six points, all inside shots, and Lexi Prevost missed her shot inside, but was able to grab the rebound and sink both of her free-throws after the foul on her second attempt at the basket.

“The third quarter went back and forth and then in the fourth quarter they made a run,” Woodin said. “We need to finish a little stronger at the foul-line down the stretch. Defensively though we were able to get some key stops. We were able to limit them to two 3-pointers; Jenny (Heringer) had the team well-prepared. I though Alisha hit some big shots and off the bench Lexi was able to provide a spark that helped the team as well. Defensively as a whole, everyone did a nice job.”

At the start of the second half, Prevost found Van Atta under the rim for basket to make it 38-30. Grimsrud then gave MSUB its largest lead of the game with a 3-pointer at 41-30.

The Vikings made their move with a 12-4 run that straddled the last two quarters. Gandy closed the deficit down to three points with a layup, 43-40, with 7:35 left in the game.

A jumper from Breen and another 3-pointer had the ‘Jackets pulling back away for 48-42. A layup from Bernsen and a jump shot from Peacocke were the only baskets scored in the last 5:34 of the game as MSUB missed its last six shots of the game, but were able to stay solid on defense and hold out for the win.

The MSUB defense has held Western Washington to season lows of 47 points (in Billings) and tonight to 46 points. WWU shot 33.3 percent from the field (21-63) and were 2-9 from the 3-point arc. The Yellowjackets limited their fouls, sending the Vikings to the line for three shots with WWU making two of those.

Bernsen finished with a double-double of 10 points and 11 rebounds. Peacocke had 19 points. Gandy had 11 points for the Vikings.

WWU outscored MSUB in the paint, 26-16, and outrebounded the Yellowjackets 39-34. From the field, MSU Billings finished the game shooting 35.3 percent (18-51) and was 6-17 (35.3) from the 3-point arc. The Yellowjackets were an uncharacteristic 6-12 (50.0 percent) from the free-throw line.

“It will be nice to get back home after playing two difficult games on the road,” Woodin said. “We will have to continue to be road warriors as the team winds down the season. Tonight we beat an excellent team on the road which is a good accomplishment for the team and I know they are looking forward to playing two more regular season games next week to finish strong.”

THE BUZZ: Prevost named the St. Vincent Healthcare Athlete of the Game for two points, one rebound, one assist, and one steal in six minutes off the bench.

UP NEXT: MSU Billings finishes out the GNAC regular season with games at Northwest Nazarene on Thursday, Feb. 25, and then a game at Central Washington on Saturday, Feb. 27.

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