RENO, Nev. — Peyton Ferris says Hannah Caudill is her “personal backbone,” a safety net who provides important contributions for Montana State when Ferris is struggling or out of sync.
Ferris, the Big Sky Conference MVP, isn’t contained often. But she certainly was in the MSU’s quarterfinal game in the league tournament against Weber State on Wednesday at the Reno Events Center.
As Ferris was constantly double- and triple-teamed, Caudill made 6 of 12 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 24 points, leading the No. 1-seeded Bobcats to a 65-53 victory and a trip to Friday’s semifinals against fourth-seeded Eastern Washington.
It’s not that Caudill doesn't score, but she typically defers to Ferris and teammate Riley Nordgaard, the team’s two top point-getters. That tandem was limited to six combined points versus Weber State.
Delany Junkermier hit the game’s biggest shot — a clutch 3 in the final minutes — but Caudill’s performance Wednesday was made more significant considering she was still fighting an illness that kept her out of the lineup during the final week of the regular season.
“Obviously for Hannah’s first game back, just trying to get going again, that was the biggest thing for her,” Bobcats coach Tricia Binford said.
MSU grinded out the victory, and now turns its attention to Eastern Washington and a chance to advance to the conference championship game.
The Bobcats swept the Eagles in two regular-season meetings, but that, as we’ve seen, means nothing in a tournament setting. EWU is coming off a 73-64 win over defending tournament champion Idaho.
“(In) tournament time, records, seedings, they’re all out the window. They don’t matter,” Ferris said Thursday. “You’re trying to go 1-0. Hopefully we can get a good jump and play a complete game. I think playing a complete game will be our biggest challenge.”
Delaney Hodgins scored 23 points to lead EWU over Idaho, and she is her team’s best option with averages of 17.8 points and 6.4 rebounds per game. But the Eagles are more than just one player.
Tisha Phillips and Ashli Payne also average double figures in points. Coach Wendy Schuller’s squad is active on both ends of the floor.
Binford said the Eagles are “super talented. They’ve got the three that are tremendous scorers that you have to focus on, but lately they’ve had other kids stepping up. I just think you have to play them really honest.
“This is a team that is super explosive offensively and they change it up a lot defensively. So for us it’s going to be about composure and poise. We learned that certainly from (Wednesday).
“Eastern can change it up between zones, presses, man-pressure, traps ... all kinds of things. So the biggest thing is that we get a great shot that we like on the other end.”
With Ferris surrounded, the Bobcats got all kinds of great looks against Weber State. Many of them missed.
Ferris’ four-point output was her lowest this season. She only attempted three shots. But she seemed to adjust to the role reversal.
“I didn’t really feel much frustration,” she said. “My primary focus yesterday was to (rebound) and play solid defense. I just went around reassuring people to keep attacking and keep shooting.
“(Junkermier) looked at me kind of funny and she goes, ‘I haven’t made a shot yet.’ And I was like, ‘I don’t care. Don’t get gun shy. Just keep going.’ And fortunately she was able to keep shooting and make a crucial shot.”
Ferris and Co. hope there are more big shots — and winning moments — to come.