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

Eagles earn program’s first Big Sky Tournament Championship

Katherine Kneafsey
In just her third year with the program, EWU women’s basketball head coach Joddie Gleason led the Eagles to their first-ever tournament championship and second-ever NCAA tournament appearance.

The Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team beat Northern Arizona University 73-64 on March 13 in a tightly contested game to become Big Sky Tournament champions for the first time in program history and earn their first bid to the NCAA tournament since 1987.

NAU outscored the Eagles 22-12 in the first quarter, led by senior guard Grace Beasley’s six points during the period. Junior guard Nyah Moran had five points as well.

EWU began to close the gap in the second half of the second quarter. With the Eagles down 30-22, senior guard Jacinta Buckley made two jump shots to help spark an 8-0 run that tied the game. Buckley led all players in scoring with 20 points and rebounds with 11.

Sophomore NAU forward Sophia Glancey made a three-pointer, and All-Big Sky Second Team member junior guard Jaleesa Lawrence made a layup to make the score 33-32 for Northern Arizona at halftime.

The Lumberjacks opened the third quarter with a quick layup from Beasley and a three from Moran to open their lead up to 38-32. However, Eastern Washington battled back with a 7-2 run to cut the lead to a single point.

Neither team was able to separate, and the score was 48-48 heading into the final quarter. The winner of this quarter determines the winner of the Big Sky Tournament.

Lawrence made a tip shot to score the first points of the fourth quarter, giving the Eagles a 50-48 lead, their first of the game. Northern Arizona responded with two free throws from senior guard Emily Rodabaugh.

Lawrence made another basket, and NAU again made two free throws, this time from sophomore guard Taylor Feldman, one of just two players to come off the bench for the Lumberjacks in this game. 

EWU took the lead again with 6:13 to go as Buckley converted an and-one layup. Sophomore forward Saniah Neverson, the other Lumberjack to come off the bench, made it a one-point game with a layup that was quickly answered by the Eagles when First Team All-Big Sky member Aaliyah Alexander made a jump shot.

Moran made two free throws at 4:50 to make the score 56-57 for Eastern Washington, with less than half of a quarter remaining in the Big Sky Tournament. Big Sky MVP and Defensive Player of the Year, graduate student guard Jamie Loera, made a three to extend the lead to 60-56.

Alexander made two free throws, and it appeared EWU was pulling away, but Glancey was able to make a layup. Two free throws from Buckley made it a 64-58 game with 2:52 remaining.

The Eagles made their move with just under two minutes to go. Buckley made a layup, Alexander made a free throw, and junior forward Jaydia Martin made a three during Eastern Washington’s 6-2 run that sealed their Big Sky Championship status.

Alexander made two free throws to make it a 72-64 game with 37 seconds left, and Lawrence made one free throw to make it 73-64 by the end of the game. 

Lawrence was second on the team with 15 points, while Alexander, Loera, and Martin each scored double-digits as well. 

The Eagles were named a 14-seed in the NCAA tournament and will be taking on 3-seed Oregon State at 5:00 PM on March 22. The EWU women will be looking to win the first NCAA tournament game in program history. 

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Nic Cunningham, Reporter
Katherine Kneafsey, Photographer

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