Walla Walla Community College
Women’s Basketball

Women’s hoops season comes to an end

Walla Walla’s stay at the Northwest Athletic Conference Championships women’s basketball tournament was short … and not so sweet.

Downright bitter, in fact.

For the first time in coach Bobbi Hazeltine’s 16-year tenure at WWCC, the Warriors were ousted from the 16-team, double-elimination tourney without a victory.

Bellevue sent the Walla Wallans packing here early Sunday morning in the Toyota Center, holding on and finally pulling away to a 72-62 victory in the tournament’s first loser-out contest. The Warriors’ defeat came less than 24 hours after their 61-60 loss to Clark Saturday morning in a hotly contested first-round game.

After placing in 12 consecutive tournaments, including NWAC championships in 2001 and 2010, the Warriors have now come home empty handed in each of the last three years. However, WWCC did win its tourney opener in 2013 and 2014 before bowing out.

This year’s early exit was surprising considering WWCC entered the tourney as a No. 1 seed after winning the East Region championship. But the Warriors’ propensity for falling behind early in games proved to be too much to overcome.

Bellevue built a 10-point lead, 32-22, late in the first half before the Warriors closed on an 11-1 run to forge a 33-33 tie at the break. But the Bulldogs’ Mikayla Jones buried back-to-back 3-pointers to begin the second half and the Warriors spent the next 10 minutes trying to catch up.

They finally did, 52-52, on Courtney Davis’ rebound basket with 9:05 remaining in the game. And they claimed a 55-54 lead on Karli McHone’s 3-pointer at the 7:45 mark.

Bailey Nygaard sank 1-of-2 free throws with 6:52 on the clock to give WWCC it’s last lead at 56-55. Bulldogs wiry center Eboney Jackson hit consecutive hoops — the first from the top of the key, the second in the lane — and Hunter Hopkins converted a three-point play as Bellevue moved out to a 62-56 lead with 5:41 remaining.

The Warriors never got closer than four points after that and the Bulldogs sealed the victory by sinking 4-of-6 free throws in the final 37.9 seconds.

“That seems to have become our MO, not just in this tournament but in the last two games of the (regular) season,” Hazeltine said. “We get behind and then we catch up. If I could pinpoint why, we would be the champions.

“It’s disappointing,” the coach added. “We came in here as a No. 1 seed with a big target on our back, and we didn’t do a good job of handling the target.”

The Warriors improved their shooting slightly over their first-round loss to Clark when they hit 32 percent from the field and 20 percent from 3-point distance. They finished at 34 percent overall Sunday and 33 percent from beyond the arc.

But a rash of turnovers — 19 overall, 12 of them in the second half — nullified that improvement.

“Nineteen turnovers against no pressure,” Hazeltine assessed. “We were aware that they only played six kids and we thought we could run on them. But we made some bad decisions.”

The Warriors also cranked up 54 3-point shots in the two tournament games, largely because they were ineffective working the ball into the paint.

“We put up 17 3-pointers in the first half today, and that’s just not us,” Hazeltine said. “But I thought we did do a better job of getting the ball to Devynn in the second half.”

Devynn Johnson, WWCC’s 6-foot sophomore post, scored all four of her baskets in the second half and finished with 10 points. She also snagged eight rebounds as WWCC once again dominated the backboards, 53-37.

The Bulldogs made up for that disparity by shooting 45 percent from the field and 46 percent from beyond the 3-point line. Shelby Kassuba led the way with 23 points, Hunter Hopkins scored 16, Jackson 14 and Jones 13.

“There were mismatches all over the court,” Hazeltine said of her team’s defensive difficulties. “We talked about a zone, but they shoot it so well. We took our chances with the man defense and it didn’t work out for us.”

Kennedy Corrigan, the Warriors’ freshman point guard, led her team with 15 points and five assists. Karli McHone, one of five sophomores playing her final game in a Warriors uniform, finished with 11 points and sophomore Paige Vincent and freshman Courtney Davis added nine points each, with Davis leading the way with 13 rebounds.

Bailey Nygaard contributed six points in her Warriors finale.

Walla Walla finished its season with a 21-7 record.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *