Warriors rally in war with Westminster to claim fifth straight title
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah. – If one is impressive, two is special, three is outstanding, and four is remarkable; it is hard to find the next appropriate word to describe the fact that the Lewis-Clark State College women’s basketball team has now won five consecutive Frontier Conference Tournament titles. The second-seeded Warriors defeated top-seeded Westminster College 55-49 on Tuesday night.
LCSC head coach Brian Orr had no trouble finding words to describe how winning a fifth straight titles feels.
“Really sweet,” said Orr. “Because we beat a really good team tonight. I was so proud of the way our girls just battled every single possession. It was a war out there, with both ends competing hard.”
Having played in 12-of-13 Frontier Conference Tournament title games since joining the league in 1999, LCSC has been considered the favorite during many championship games, but this year was not the case.
No. 14-ranked Westminster, which won its fifth straight regular season conference title this year, entered the game with an 11-game win streak, home court advantage, and the mental edge of having handled LCSC 78-56 in the most recent meeting.
The Warriors’ answer to overcome the odds came on the defensive end. With five steals in the first nine minutes, LCSC was able to work its way to a 12-2 lead by the 10:49 mark.
“One of the big differences in the game as compared to when we last played them was our matchups,” Orr said. “We moved Tasha [Bishop] over to guard [Nicole] Yazzie, and this allowed us to move Jasmine [Stohr] over to guard [Cydney] Tibbits.”
The new defensive arrangement proved to work wonders as Bishop was able to hold Yazzie, Westminster’s leading scorer, to just 11 points in the game on 3-of-10 shooting; and Stohr kept Tibbits, who scored 13 against LCSC in the previous meeting, to three points overall.
“Tasha didn’t shoot the best from the floor, but she defended great all night long.”
Not surprisingly, however, Westminster, which ranks No. 6 in the NAIA in 3-point shooting percentage and No. 8 in 3-pointers per game, quickly bounced right back from its slow start thanks to a flurry of shots from behind the arc.
With four straight 3-pointers by Westminster and LCSC’s shooting touch going cold, the Griffins were able to take a 20-16 lead at the half.
LCSC, now 28-4, outshot the Griffins 36.4 percent to 28.0 percent in the first half, however, Westminster was 4-of-10 from the outside while the Warriors were 0-for-6.
Westminster opened the second half with a couple quick buckets to gain their largest lead of nine with 17:34 left on the clock. From here, the Griffins were able to maintain a lead of around seven points for the next 10 minutes.
Finally with about five minutes left in regulation, the Warriors stopped the back-and-forth scoring trend and with an offensive rebound and a jumper by Alyssa Fierro they cut the lead to 44-39.
This was followed by another offensive rebound and put-back by Jasmine Stohr to make it 44-41. Then, after a great hustle rebound by Kelli Rice on the defensive end, Voshell had a put-back of her own to make it 44-43.
Right when things were starting to look brighter for the Warriors though, Westminster again struck from the outside. Dana Bates nailed a 3-pointer to make it 47-43 with 2:51 left on the clock.
The Warriors brought the ball up the floor on the next possession with a definite need to come up with some kind of answer. With Stohr being guarded heavily, Rice found Bishop open near the top of the key, and the senior from Meridian, Idaho, launched a 3-pointer and hit nothing but net to cut the lead back to one at 47-46. It was the Warriors’ only 3-pointer on the night.
“In my mind I was thinking she was kind of due for it,” said Orr. “I thought momentum had switched to them, so I called for that play, and when she hit the shot the momentum came right back to us.”
A little less than a minute later, Brittaney Niebergall collected a defensive rebound and then dashed the length of the court to hit a layup and give LCSC its first lead of the second half, 48-47, with 1:48 remaining.
Yazzie hit a couple of free throws after this to retake the lead, but the Warriors answered with a great drive and dish by Stohr to find a wide open Voshell under the basket and she made it 50-49 with 1:09 left.
Voshell then came up with a block on the next possession, gathered the loose ball, and was fouled. She hit two shots at the line to make it 52-49, and Bishop followed on the ensuing possession with two more free throws to put the game out of reach.
“We got on a roll at the right time,” said Orr. “We have to give a lot of credit to Westminster. I don’t think we had an easy basket all night.”
Beyond a trophy and bragging rights, the win gives the No. 13-ranked Warriors an automatic berth to the 32-team NAIA national tournament, which will be held March 14-20 at Frankfort, Ky. The win also has the potential to positively affect how high LCSC is seeded during the tournament.
Because of its high ranking, Westminster, now 22-8 overall, is sure to receive an at-large berth.
At-large berths will officially be announced on Wednesday when the 32-team national championship field is released by the national office. The final regular-season poll along with the bracket for the 32nd annual Division I Women’s Basketball National Championship will also be released on Wednesday.
Stohr led Tuesday’s contest with 19 points to go with seven rebounds, four steals, and two assists. Fifteen of her points came in the second half.
“Her play the second half on both ends was critical to our success tonight. She played with so much poise and confidence.”
Voshell finished with a double-double of 16 points and 11 boards—eight of her points came in the first nine minutes of the game. She also had two blocks and two steals. Fierro had seven points, nine rebounds, and three blocks.
Overall, LCSC outshot Westminster 41.2 percent to 29.4 percent and had a 44-29 lead in rebounds.
“It really could have gone either way. We hit the shots we needed to. I’m so proud of the players.”