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Lady Jackets eliminated from West Regional, nearly upset top seed

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AZUSA, Calif. – MSU Billings was within three in the final quarter, but a big kick from No. 13 Azusa Pacific down the stretch pushed the Cougars to an 83-75 win Friday night in the first round of the NCAA Division II West Region Tournament.

MSUB as the No. 8 seed up against top-seeded host Azusa Pacific on the Cougars’ home court.

The Yellowjackets were down as many as 14 but closed to within three points on a Rylee Kane free-throw, 55-52, with 8:42 remaining in the game. Azusa Pacific responeded with three quick shots to lead by eight.

Alisha Breen led all players with 31 points, including five 3-pointers. Kane finished with 14 points and four assists. Seniors Janiel Olson and Monica Grimsrud both scored double-doubles. Olson had 12 points and 10 rebounds, Grimsrud 11 points and 10 boards. Grimsrud also had four assists, one block, and a five steals in her final game as a Yellowjacket.

Olson entered the game as MSUB's all-time leading rebounder, but now finishes her career with 1,001, becoming the only Yellowjacket ever to achieve quadruple rebounding figures.

No. 13 Azusa Pacific (28-3) outrebounded MSUB 43-28, and 15-4 on the offensive glass. The Yellowjackets were 16-21 from the free-throw line, while the Cougars finished 16-22. APU held a 10-point, 34-24, advantage in the paint, but both teams were even in shooting (46-46.3 percent). The difference was in the amount of shots put up. MSUB took 54 during the game while Azusa managed 63. Both teams were even on 3-pointers. MSUB made 9-25 while APU was 9-23.

Balanced scoring efforts from APU had all five of its starters finishing in double-figures. PacWest Player of the Year Kelly Hardeman had 17 points and six rebounds. She also had three 3-pointers. Allison Green matched Hardeman with 17 points.

Montana State University Billings (21-11) jumped ahead of Azusa Pacific when Breen hit back-to-back 3-pointers to put the Yellowjackets up 13-8. Grimsrud stretched the advantage to seven with a layup. The Cougars answered with an 11-0 run to grab the lead.

in the final minute Breen a layup to make it a two possession game, 79-75, with 18 seconds left. That’s as far as the ‘Jackets would get. Needing to foul, MSUB sent APU back to the foul-line and the Cougars finished with four straight.

THE BUZZ: The Yellowjackets finish their year with Kevin Woodin’s fourth 20-plus win season…the 2015-16 Great Northwest Athletic Conference Coach of the Year earned his fourth all-time Coach of the Year honor in 12 seasons at the helm…Grimsrud and Olson both close their careers as fifth-year seniors…Olson finished with 880 points, 1,001 rebounds, and 178 steals…Grimsrud tallied 662 points, 416 rebounds, and 116 steals.

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