LCSC to open nationals vs. Westmont
The Lewis-Clark State College women’s basketball team received one of four No. 3 seeds in the 31st annual NAIA Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship and will open play in Jackson, Tenn., against Westmont on Thursday, March 17, at 7:45 p.m., PST, in the final game of the opening round.
The Warriors are the No. 10 seed overall in the 32-team tournament as the seedings for the top 10 teams followed the final NAIA Top 25 poll of the season, which was released earlier Wednesday. LCSC was ranked No. 10 in that poll.
While the seeding was good news, the game time for LCSC could have been better. The opening eight games of the tournament are played on Wednesday and the other eight are played on Thursday. Second-round games are on Friday and the quarterfinals are on Saturday.
By playing the last game on Thursday, the LCSC-Westmont winner will have the shortest turnaround time to play on Friday, also at the same time. The LCSC-Westmont winner will take on the winner of Thursday’s 6 p.m. contest between No. 2 seed Freed-Hardeman of Tennessee (24-8) and No. 7 seed Shorter of Georgia (24-7).
As long as LCSC keeps winning, it will always play in the final game each day.
LCSC is one of three Frontier Conference teams to make the tournament. Regular-season champion Westminster received a No. 2 seed and will play at 3:45 p.m. Wednesday against Rogers State of Oklahoma. Montana Tech received the second to last at-large berth and will open against one of the tournament favorites and top seeds, Oklahoma City, at 11:45 a.m. on Wednesday.
The Warriors enter the tournament with a 28-4 record after winning the Frontier Conference Tournament title for the fourth straight season on Monday night to earn an automatic berth. LCSC has qualified for nationals in 15 of the past 16 years.
Westmont is 20-9 overall and is ranked No. 23 in the NAIA poll. This is the sixth appearance at nationals for Westmont, which has only advanced out of the first round once and is 1-5 overall in national play.
Westmont finished tied for fourth with Vanguard in the Golden State Athletic Conference this season with a 12-8 mark. Azusa Pacific, which is ranked No. 3, went 18-2 and won the regular season title, while Biola and Cal Baptist tied for second at 16-4. Biola was ranked No. 9 in the final poll and finished 25-6, while Cal Baptist, ranked No. 5, won the conference tournament and is 26-7 overall.
That could mean trouble for Westmont. During the season, LCSC defeated the top three GSAC teams but still finished ranked below the three. LCSC defeated both Biola (61-52) and Cal Baptist (74-60) in a tournament in Lewiston in November, and then defeated Azusa Pacific (72-62) in California during Christmas break.
Westmont lost both of its meetings to Biola and Azusa Pacific, while it split with Cal Baptist.
Westmont actually lost in the opening round of the GSAC Tournament when it was the No. 4 seed and fell to No. 5 seed Vanguard 75-60.
Westmont is a young team with only two seniors and two juniors on its 14 player roster. Also nicknamed the Warriors, Westmont has five sophomores and five freshmen on the squad.
Westmont features a balanced attach with four players averaging in double figures scoring.
Senior Angel Blanco, a 5-foot-11 forward, was a first-team all-GSAC selection after leading the team in scoring and rebounding at 12.8 points and 6.7 rebounds per game. Vanessa Farias, a 5-7 sophomore guard, and Katie Kittle, a 5-9 junior guard/forward, are both hitting for 11.3 points per game, while Lisa Peterson, a 6-2 junior post is at 10.9 points and 5.7 rebounds per contest.
As a team, Westmont shot 40.2 percent from the field and 34.1 percent from the 3-point line. They attempted 552 3-point attempts this season, an average of 19 per game, and made 188, an average of 6.5 per outing. The team also shot 82.1 percent from the field and outrebounded opponents 39.6-37.4 this season.
Westmont also outscored its opponents by an average of 71.0-63.7 points per game.
In comparison, LCSC outscored the opposition 73.4-58.8 this season, shot 44.2 percent from the field, 30.2 percent at the 3-point line with nearly 100 less attempts, and outrebounded opponents 43.0-36.3.
In NAIA national rankings, Westmont is NO. 20 in free throw percentage at 72.1 percent and is No. 22 in turnover margin. It’s also No. 23 in both 3-point shooting percentage and assist/turnover ratio.
In comparison, LCSC is the top 25 in 16 team categories, including five in the top 10. LCSC is second in the nation in total blocks (172) and field goal percentage defense (33 percent), is No. 3 in blocks per game (5.4), is No. 9 in defensive rebounds per game (29) and is 10th in total offensive rebounds (1,376)
Two Westmont individuals rank in the NAIA top 25 in statistics. Peterson is 11th in free throw percentage at 83.9 percent, while Larissa Hensley is 12th in assist/turnover ratio at 1.94.
LCSC has players in 14 categories in the individual top 25. Alyssa Fierro ranks eighth in total blocks (62) and ninth in blocks per game (1.94), while Kirsi Voshell is 10th in total blocks (59). Jasmine Stohr, the Frontier Conference’s Player of the Year, is 10th in total scoring (589 points) and 12th in points per game (18.4). Voshell is also 12th in blocks per game (1.84) and Stohr is 13th in total steals (89).
LCSC will fly out to Nashville from Spokane on Monday and bus two hours to Jackson Monday night.
The bracket for the 32-team tournament can be found at