POMONA, Calif. — Montana State University Billings is one win away from the Elite 8 of the NCAA Division II women’s basketball tournament.
MSUB and GNAC rival Simon Fraser were tied at 35 starting the second half, but the Yellowjackets outscored Simon Fraser 12-1 to start the second half, earning a 76-68 semifinal victory on Saturday in the semifinals of the West Regional.
MSUB improved their record to 24-7 and will play No. 1 seed Cal Poly Pomona in the regional championship on Monday night. The winner advances to the Division II Elite Eight next weekend in Erie, Pa.
Simon Fraser, which knocked MSUB out of the Great Northern Athletic Conference tournament last Friday, finished with a 20-10 record. The Canadians were led by sophomore Erin Chambers, who had 33 points, five steals and five 3-pointers.
Factors in MSUB’s victory were an attacking offense, outrebounding Simon Fraser by a 44-33 margin, and making Chambers work harder for her points.
“Erin is a premier player, but if she scored 30 or 40 and we win, I’m happy,” MSUB coach Kevin Woodin said. “I trusted the team to make it difficult for her.”
Yellowjackets point guard Bobbi Knudsen said the players knew what they had to do with Chambers, who is difficult to guard because she comes off screens so well.
“We played with more intensity,” said Knudsen, who finished with 17 points and five assists.
Kayleen Goggins, who paced MSUB with 19 points, made three of her six 3-point shots.
Breen had 13 rebounds and provided excellent defense. Her role on the boards has increased since an injury to Janiel Olsen, who made a brief appearance in the game.
“Janiel is a huge rebounder and I learned a lot from her,” said Breen. “We communicated more in the second half when they would set screens.”
MSUB never lost the lead after the first four minutes of the game. Simon Fraser did make a run to tie the score at halftime, but Simon Fraser coach Bruce Langford said his team was fortunate to be tied because MSUB played better than his squad before halftime.
“We had trouble rebounding,” said Langford, who tried to press late in the game. “We forced one turnover, but our players really don’t have the skill set to press.”
The aggressiveness displayed by MSUB was proven because the Yellowjackets scored seven of their 12 points from the foul line in the five-minute spurt. Center Chelsea Banis had a layup in the paint, and Austin Hanser hit a 3-pointer.
The current MSUB run is even more impressive when you consider that, in addition to Olson, the Yellowjackets lost Annie DuPuydt to injury in January.
“Everybody had to step up, and Alisha Breen and Austin Hanser have played more minutes and done well,” Woodin said.