The Falcons lose big twice, locked in a three-way tie for last playoff spot with six games to go

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Kaprice Boston, sophomore, brings the ball to the away side of the court with her eye on the basket. Alison Meharg | The Falcon

Daniel Newman

Two games of double-digit points and rebounds from forward Cici West were not enough to stop the Seattle Pacific University women’s basketball team from losing big twice last week, 74-56 to Central Washington University on Thursday, and 90-71 to Northwest Nazarene University on Saturday.

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Carly Rataushik shoots a layup. Alison Meharg | The Falcon

In both games, the Falcons played well for stretches, but big scoring runs lost them the advantage.

Going into the game against CWU, the Falcons had not played a game in a week and the rust showed, as they only made three of their 13 shots in the first quarter.

“Long breaks are always tough on a team. You need to get the rust off quickly in warm-ups,” Falcons head coach Mike Simonson said.

The Wildcats, having lost three out of their last four games, came out of the gates on fire. They hit seven 3-pointers in the first quarter, including three from forward Taylor Shaw, and moved into a 27-8 first quarter lead.

In the middle of the second quarter, Simonson took out starters Riley Evans, Hailee Bennett and Carly Rataushk, and brought in Madi Hingston, Kaprice Boston and Ashley Alter. At this point, the offense started to click more, making four of its last six shots in the quarter.

“We had a couple players get into foul trouble and we had a flat start. After searching, we felt like we found a lineup that competed well together and they stayed on the floor for a good amount of time,” Simonson said.

The Falcon defense also began to settle in the third quarter, but whenever the score started to get closer, the Wildcats would break through with a big bucket or a big defensive stop. The Falcons could only get within 12 points, as their offense fell apart again in the fourth quarter, only making four out of 19 shots.

West scored 17 points, 13 of which came in the second half, and grabbed 11 rebounds. Guard Jaylee Albert racked up 15 points, and Hingston notched seven points off the bench.

The Wildcats and guard Sadie Mensing dominated the paint throughout the game. Mensing had 25 points on the night, 22 of which came on layups and short jumpers. Shaw added 14 points, and forward Kassidy Malcolm added 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists.

On Saturday, Northwest Nazarene University’s pressure defense gave the Falcons fits all night, forcing them to commit 30 turnovers. Five of those turnovers came in the first five and a half minutes, allowing the Nighthawks to take a quick 17-5 lead.

The Falcons, however, returned fire with a 13-4 run, and ended up fighting back to take a 26-25 lead. However, NNU came back with a 13-5 run, and the two teams went back and forth for the rest of the half. Hingston hit a 3-pointer with seven seconds left in the half to bring the Falcons back within five, but Nighthawks guard Jordan Pinson launched a half-court shot that swished through the net to swing the momentum back the Nighthawks way.

The Nighthawks rode the momentum to outscore the Falcons 23-9 in the third quarter. The Falcons committed 10 turnovers during the quarter and only shot 25 percent from the field thanks to the Nighthawks pressure defense.

“In the third quarter, we were a little less aggressive than we were in the first half. We really wanted to attack their pressure with aggressive play. NNU changed the way they pressured and we needed to adjust our offensive game plan. It took a full quarter to get back on track,” Simonson said.

The Nighthawks built up their lead to 30 points with seven minutes to go in the game, but the Falcons’ good shooting made the score more respectable in the end.

For the Falcons, Hingston led the team in scoring with a career high 14 points, and had four assists. West had 13 points and 11 rebounds, and guard Jade Skidmore came off the bench and added 11 points and six rebounds.

The Nighthawks used a balanced scoring attack the entire game, with guard Ellie Logan leading the team with 15 points and guard Avery Albrecht had 12 points. Forwards Raquel and Danielle Jardine added 10 points apiece.

Next week, the Falcons will head North, taking on third place Simon Fraser University on Thursday, and will play fifth place Western Washington University on Saturday. Both games are crucial for the Falcons, especially if they want to make up some ground in the playoff race.

“Overall, against NNU I was proud of the way our team competed against a top 5 team in the nation. We played the style of play we have been striving for all season,” Simonson said. “Now we need to carry it over into an important road trip to Simon Fraser and WWU.”