MSUB women 1 win away from Elite Eight

2014-03-16T17:45:00Z 2014-03-17T00:20:04Z MSUB women 1 win away from Elite EightBy JOE KUSEK The Billings Gazette

The Montana State University Billings women’s basketball team has been in this spot before.

Having to beat the No. 1 seed — on its home court — for an opportunity to advance to the NCAA Division II Elite Eight.

But then again, the last time it happened many of the current Yellowjackets were in kindergarten or first grade.

In 1999, the MSUB women made history with a 70-62 over UC Davis in the West Regional championship on the Aggies’ home court.

This year’s Yellowjackets are hoping for the same result. They’ll face Cal Poly Pomona in the West Region title game on Monday night with a trip to the Elite Eight on the line.

The West Region title game will begin at 8 p.m. Mountain time at Pomona’s Arena.

The Elite Eight is March 25-28 in Erie, Pa.

The Broncos (24-6) are the No. 1 seed, while the Yellowjackets (25-7) are the No. 2 seed. The hosts are 14-2 at home this season.

MSUB advanced with a 76-68 semifinal win over Simon Fraser on Saturday, while Cal Poly Pomona beat Chico State 89-80.

The Yellowjackets, who won the Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season title, have tied the program record with 25 wins this season — matching the 1990-91 and 1998-99 teams.

“We’re just finding a way to get things done,” said Yellowjacket coach Kevin Woodin. “This group has been through so much, on and off the court. They really want to keep playing.”

The Yellowjackets are 1-5 all-time against Cal Poly Pomona.

The Broncos won the last meeting 76-63 on March 10, 2000 in the semifinals of the West Region tournament. The teams first played in 1977.

The Cal Poly Pomona women have won five Division II national titles (1982, 1985, 1986, 2001, 2002).

The California Collegiate Athletic Association regular-season champions are led by 6-foot-1 junior Jada Blackwell. She had a career-high 35 points in Saturday’s win over Chico State and 23 in her team’s first-round win against Alaska Anchorage.

Blackwell came into the tournament averaging 18.1 points and 9.3 rebounds per game.

“She is a tremendous post player,” Woodin said of Blackwell. “She has a great feel around the basket and she is very tenacious on the boards.

“They’re a post-oriented team. We have to be able to defend the post without fouling and make them work for their points.”

Teammate Ariel Marsh is adding 16.4 points a game for Cal Poly Pomona, while Ashley Lovett averages 10.1. Lovett had 12 points and 11 rebounds against UAA on Friday. Marsh had 25 points in the win against Chico State.

Woodin said dealing with Pomona’s full-court defense will also be a challenge in Monday’s game.

“Handling their pressure will be key,” he said. “They play a 2-2-1 press, not so much to get turnovers, but more to keep you off-guard.”

Kayleen Goggins led MSUB with 19 points against Simon Fraser on Saturday, while Bobbi Knudsen added 17 and Chelsea Banis 14. Alisha Breen had 13 rebounds.

“We’ve just shown a great tenacity this season,” Woodin said. “We have to rebound and take care of the ball.”

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