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MSU Billings women grab regional title, advance to NCAA D2 basketball championships

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courtesy of Montana State University-Billings. courtesy of Montana State University-Billings.

AZUSA, Calif. – Rylee Kane made two free throws with 4.5 seconds left, and Alisha Breen blocked Alaska-Anchorage’s final shot at the buzzer as MSU Billings’ dream postseason run continued with a 71-70 win over Alaska-Anchorage in the NCAA Division 2 West Region championship game Monday in Azusa, Calif.

The Jackets were down 70-69 with 9.7 seconds to play, when Kane took an inbounds pass at midcourt, drove to her right, and collided with Kian McNair, who was called for a blocking foul with 4.3 seconds left. Kane, who was just a 56 percent free throw shooter in the regular season, made both to finish 7 for 8 at the line in the game.

MSUB had a foul to give on Anchorage’s ensuing possession, which Breen committed at the 1.5-second mark. The Seawolves inbounded the ball to leading scorer Hannah Wandersee on the egde of the key, who turned left to shoot. But Breen met the ball in Wandersee’s hand and blocked it to the floor as time expired.

The block made up for a poor shooting night from the newly crowned NCAA D2 West Region Player of the Year. Breen scored 16 points on just 3-13 shooting, but made 9 of 10 from the free throw line.

Vanessa Stavish kept MSUB in the game in the first half. The junior from Frenchtown was 4-4 from the three-point line for a team-high 14 points as the Jackets trailed 38-32. Stavish made her fifth three early in the third quarter, finishing with a team-high 17 on just six field goal attempts, plus 10 rebounds.

Anchorage led by as many as 10. MSUB didn’t take their first lead until 3:22 to play in the third quarter. The teams traded the lead seven more times after that.

Kane finished with 14 points and was named the West Region Championships MVP after averaging 21.3 points in three games. Breen was also named to the all-tournament team.

NEXT: MSUB now advances to the NCAA D2 Championships in Sioux Falls, S.D., beginning Monday, March 19. The eight regional winners will be re-seeded.

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