The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

The independent, student-run news site of Eastern Washington University.

The Easterner

Mixed bag for EWU basketball in conference tournament

Katherine Kneafsey
Junior guard Jaleesa Lawrence drives to the rim on Feb. 24 against Northern Colorado. Lawrence scored 15 points to help lead the Eagles past Weber State in the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament on March 10

In the first round of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, both Eastern Washington University basketball teams entered as the top seed, making them the expected favorites to win the whole tournament. However, only one EWU team is moving on to the second round.

The women’s team won against nine-seed Weber State 71-58, while the men’s team lost 74-69 to Sacramento State, the tenth seed. The loss marks the second year in a row the men have won the regular season title and lost in the first postseason game. 

EWU’s women played first, with the tip-off occurring at 11 a.m. on Sunday, March 10. The Eagles started slow, with Weber State jumping out to an early 12-4 lead. The Eagles quickly tied the score with a run of their own, with Big Sky MVP Jamie Loera and senior guard Jacinta Buckley combining for all eight points during the stretch.

The two teams stayed close and the first quarter ended with the score tied 16-16. The second quarter, however, was much more of a defensive battle. Both teams scored just 9 points during the period, which included a stretch where neither team made a basket for almost four minutes.

The third quarter was the highest-scoring of the game. It got off to a low start, with the teams combining for eleven points in the first three and a half minutes. From there, the Wildcats went on a 10-3 run that gave them a 43-34 lead. 

Weber State senior forward Daryn Hickok, who led all scorers with 21 points, started the run with a three-pointer. Her teammate senior forward Jadyn Matthews scored the game’s next seven points, causing EWU head coach Joddie Gleason to call a timeout. 

The Eagles were able to reset after the timeout. They closed the quarter on a 13-4 run, and a layup from redshirt sophomore guard Aaliyah Alexander, who was named to the All-Big Sky First Team, gave EWU a 48-47 lead heading into the fourth quarter. 

The final period was all EWU, as they outscored the Wildcats 24-12. Weber State scored the first three points of the quarter, but a 7-0 run gave the Eagles a four-point lead which they did not relinquish. 

Second-team All-Big Sky performer, junior guard Jaleesa Lawrence, led Eastern Washington with 15 points, followed closely by 14 from Loera and 13 from Alexander. Junior forward Jaydia Martin contributed 12 points, and graduate student Millie Knowles had 10 points as well.

The team moves on to the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference Tournament, where on Tuesday, March 12, they will play the winner of the previous day’s game between #4 Montana State and #5 Northern Colorado. Two more victories will earn them the conference championship and ensure their spot in the NCAA tournament. 


Junior forward Cedric Coward posts up against Idaho on Feb. 10. Coward led the Eagles in points this season, and scored 22 in the loss to Sacramento State. (Katherine Kneafsey)


Eastern Washington’s men’s team also fell behind early, with Sacramento State gaining a 12-5 lead in under four minutes. Junior forward Casey Jones, who earned Second Team All-Conference and All-Defensive team honors in the 2023-24 season, halted the run with a pair of free throws.

Sacramento State immediately went on another run, this time to the tune of 7-3. Junior forward Jacob Holt and junior guard Zee Hamoda orchestrated the Hornets’ fast start, with Holt scoring four points and Hamoda scoring eight points during the span.

Junior forward Dane Erikstrup scored five consecutive points as the Eagles tried to close the gap. With 1:12 left to go in the first half, All-Big Sky First Team selection, junior forward Cedric Coward, made a layup to cut Sacramento State’s lead to just three points. The Hornets made two free throws and senior guard Ellis Magnuson’s jump shot made it a 35-32 game at halftime.

Hamoda made another three to give the Hornets the first points of the second half, but Jones sparked an EWU run, scoring or assisting on nine straight points to give the Eagles a 41-38 lead, their first of the game. 

Hamoda, who finished the game with a team-high 19 points and went 5-5 from beyond the arc, halted Eastern Washington’s momentum with yet another three, and the two teams began trading baskets.

The Hornets made their move after two free throws from Coward cut Sacramento State’s lead to 60-58 with 4:35 left in the game. Hamoda made his fourth three starting a 10-5 run that made the score 70-63 with under two minutes remaining.

Coward led all scorers with 22 points, and he made a layup with 1:22 left to cut the Hornets lead to five. Two free throws from Jones made it a three-point game with 41 seconds left on the clock. Freshman guard Bailey Nunn made a free throw of his own to make the score 71-67 with 33 seconds to go.

Junior forward Ethan Price tried to cut the lead to one with a three but missed. Magnuson grabbed the rebound and passed it to Coward, whose three-pointer was off the mark as well. The Eagles’ three-point shooting was their biggest strength in the regular season, but the team shot just 23.1% from beyond the arc. Freshman center Bowen Beaty made two free throws, icing the game for Sacramento State. 

Jones was EWU’s second-leading scorer, finishing with fourteen points while also collecting a pair of steals. Price had eleven points as well, and tied Coward for the team lead with six rebounds. 

The Eagles will be returning the majority of their roster, as they currently have just two seniors. They will certainly be looking to gain the top seed for the third consecutive season

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Nic Cunningham, Reporter
Katherine Kneafsey, Photographer

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