LEWISTON, Idaho – Senior All-American guard Jasmine Stohr scored 17 of her game-high 21 points in the second half and the Lewis-Clark State College defense held Montana State-Northern scoreless during a critical 7:47 stretch to claim a 60-49 win over the Skylights in the semifinals of the Frontier Conference Tournament at the LCSC Activity Center on Saturday night.
The victory puts the NAIA’s No. 13-ranked Warriors into the championship game on Tuesday night against No. 14-ranked Westminster. The contest is set for 6 p.m., PST, at Salt Lake City. The two teams split during the regular season, each winning at home.
For LCSC, it will be the 12th time it has reached the conference championship game in the 13 years it has been in the league. The Warriors will also be going for their fifth straight tournament title. Two of the four previous titles have come against Westminster in Salt Lake.
The winner of the tournament receives an automatic berth to the 32-team national tournament, which will be held March 14-20 at Frankfort, Kent. Because both teams are ranked so high, LCSC and Westminster will earn berths to nationals, one as the champion and the other as an at-large.
For Montana State-Northern, its season comes to a likely end at 21-9. The Skylights were the No. 3 seed in the conference tournament and received votes in the latest NAIA poll, but it is highly unlikely the team will move up enough in the final poll to get an at-large berth.
Stohr, who leads the conference in scoring at 19.4 points per game, had only four in the first half when LCSC grabbed a 25-19 lead at intermission in the defensive struggle. She, however, provided the spark when the Warriors needed it and helped the club improve to 27-4 on the season.
Northern went on a 9-0 early in the second half to take its first lead of the ballgame at 28-27 on a jumper by Laci Keller with 17:57 remaining. However, the Skylights wouldn’t score again until the 10:10 mark as LCSC went on a 14-0 run to take control.
Stohr was the catalyst during the run as she scored nine points, including a big 3-pointer. She then hit back-to-back shots to finish the run and put LCSC ahead 41-28.
Stohr kept it going and was the only Warrior to score during the next five minutes as she hit a layin and three free throws. In the meantime, Northern caught some fire, and a 3-pointer from Nikki Tresh with 5:58 remaining cut LCSC’s lead to 46-40.
After Tanis Fuller scored on a nice give-and-go for LCSC, Stohr converted a three-point play on a post-up move and the lead was back to double digits. LCSC then went 8-of-11 at the foul line down the stretch to preserve the win.
“It was a tough ballgame but I thought we played well defensively,” Warrior coach Brian Orr said. “We fought hard.”
The two teams showed why they are among the NAIA leaders in defense as neither team could get much going offensively. Senior post Alyssa Fierro carried LCSC early and set the tone with nine of LCSC’s first 11 points. She finished with 18 points and eight rebounds.
For the night, Northern finished 20-of-60 from the field for 33 percent and 7-of-24 from the 3-point line, 29.2 percent. LCSC was 18-of-52 from the field for 34.6 percent and 2-of-12 on 3-pointers for 16.7 percent. The Warriors, however, were a solid 22-of-29 at the foul line for 75.9 percent and also had a 43-33 rebounding edge.
“I really thought our defense was solid tonight,” Orr said. “We were really flying around and making things happen. I really thought our defense was tremendous.”
The Warriors used a match-up zone to frustrate Northern and keep it from getting the ball inside. LCSC had a 28-12 advantage in points in the paint.
Freshman Brittaney Niebergall finished with eight points and five rebounds for LCSC, while senior post Kirsi Voshell had six points, eight rebounds, and three blocked shots.
Jordan Bruuresma led Northern with 15 points, six boards, two assists, and two blocks, while Laramie Schwenke had 13 points and seven boards.