A lot of things needed to go right last weekend for the Seattle Pacific University Women’s Basketball team to make it into the GNAC tournament.
Unfortunately, almost none of them did.
Both two teams in front of the Falcons, the Western Washington Vikings and the Concordia Cavaliers, won both of their games this week, eliminating the Falcons from playoff contention.
The Falcons also didn’t do themselves any favors, losing to Western Oregon University 60-53, and to Concordia University 67-62
Still, head coach Mike Simonson was proud of his team’s effort through the games and throughout the year, “What I am most proud of, is our team fought hard every day and remained bought-in to our coaching staff’s culture. Each member of our team grew individually and that alone made the year successful, regardless of what our record shows. I couldn’t ask for a better group of young women to coach.”
In the game against Western Oregon, neither team started out shooting the ball very well. The two teams missed their first sixteen shots combined, and a field goal wasn’t made until five minutes into the contest. The teams went a combined 6-32 in the quarter, and the Falcons held an 8-7 lead after one.
Thankfully, both offenses began to heat up from there. The teams kept alternating buckets throughout the second and third quarters, with no team holding a lead over five points during the span. A three pointer by guard Ashley Alter gave the Falcons a 46-44 lead at the beginning of the fourth quarter, but then the Wolves threes finally started falling.
With the game tied at 46, the Wolves used threes from guards Keyonna Jones, Ronnie Harris, and Tresai McCarver to go on a 9-0 run. After Alter’s three, the Falcons didn’t score again until six minutes later. By then, it was too late, as the Wolves hit their free throws down the stretch to put the game away.
Alter led the Falcons’ scoring efforts in the game with a career high 18 points, only missing one shot the entire game. Forward Cici West had six points and five rebounds, and guard Jade Skidmore added five points and five rebounds off the bench.
For the Wolves, Center Natalie Delonge had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Jones added 13 points and five rebounds, and forward Ali Nelke had six points and eight rebounds.
The Falcons would attempt to bounce back against Concordia University two days later, but the Cavaliers got off to a quick start, using a 13-4 run to jump into a 23-14 lead after one quarter. The Falcons got back into the game with a 10-0 run, and alternated the lead until the halftime break.
Following a back and forth third quarter, the Cavaliers slowly began to pull away. With the game tied at 42, guard Olivia Vezaldenos ripped off ten of the next twelve Cavalier points. The Falcons closed the gap to three, but a layup from forward Nakiyah LeSure and another three from Vezaldenos extended the lead again. The Falcons kept fighting to the end, but it just wasn’t to be.
In the final game of their college careers, the seniors really stepped up. West had 20 points and ten rebounds, guard Riley Evans had 12 points, and guard Jaylee Albert had 10 points and four assists.
“Being a part of this team has been such a blessing.” Said Albert after senior day last week. “The coaches have so much passion for what they do, and getting to see that everyday was awesome. I’m thankful for my time here, and I know that this program will only continue to improve and flourish in years to come.”
As for Concordia, Vezaldenos provided most of the scoring, adding 24 points. Forward Erin Higbie had 11 points and eight rebounds, and guard Keesha Sarman had ten points, 11 rebounds and eight assists.
The Falcons finish the season with a record of eight wins and 20 losses, and a GNAC conference record of 7 wins and 13 losses, good enough for an eighth-place finish. The Falcons played well at home this year, with a record of six wins and seven losses, but stumbled often on the road, with a record of two wins and ten losses.
“In the beginning of the year, we did some things that didn’t fit our team and we had to tweak our style of play,” said Simonson. “I felt that this year we were able to adapt our basketball philosophy, while still keeping our core values intact.”
Even though the Falcons are graduating four of their top five scorers, they will return seven players next year, most of which have had at least one game scoring in double figures on the season.
“We definitely ended the year in a good place to build from moving into next season and I am eager to get back on the court already.” Said Simonson