GNAC tournament next for Falcons

For Seattle Pacific’s women’s basketball team, Saturday’s pregame festivities focused on the seniors. Senior guards Jordan Harazin, McKayla Gorman and senior post Joani Reimer were honored for four years of commitment to the Falcons.

Once the game started, the sophomores took center stage.

Sophomores forward Katie Benson and guard Aubree Callen led the Falcons with 15 points apiece en route to a 71-50 victory over Simon Fraser.

After losing three of the last four games, the Falcons knew the importance of Saturday’s game against Simon Fraser. Not only would it affect the team’s seeding in the postseason, but a victory would also give SPU momentum heading into the conference tournament. For the first time this season, all three seniors were named starters.

“We don’t always start the seniors [on Senior Night], but this time, it helped and empowered the team,” head coach Julie Heisey said. “We felt like Joani could shut down [junior forward Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe] and McKayla and Jordan could get it done and wanted to finish strong.”

The Falcons led 15-7 six minutes into the game. The Clan began to heat up from long range, though, and hit five 3-pointers in the next five minutes to take a 24-22 lead.

Simon Fraser extended the lead to 31-24 until the Falcons mounted a comeback. SPU led 36-33 at halftime.

In the second half, the Falcons never gave the Clan an opportunity to come back. SPU went on a 23-5 run in the second half to secure the lead. The final score was 71-50.

Not only did the Falcons shoot 46 percent from the field, but they also had fewer turnovers and more rebounds than the Clan. The Falcons were pleased to end the season on that note.

“It gives us hope [that] we can continue to win,” Gorman said. “We played great for 40 minutes.

It is all about peaking at the right time, and it was nice ending the season with that kind of victory.”

On Thursday, the Falcons returned home after playing three consecutive road games. Due to an unusual schedule this season, there was a three-month gap splitting meetings between SPU and Western Washington. The Falcons won the first encounter 82-66 Dec. 3 in Bellingham.

The second meeting on Thursday was much closer and ended with a different result. SPU lost 72-62.

The game was close throughout the entire first half.

For the entire season, the Falcons’ strategy has been centered on defensive stinginess. In the first eight minutes against Western Washington, SPU forced seven turnovers, jumping out to a 13-4 lead.

The Vikings reeled off the next 10 points to take the advantage. For the remainder of the half, the biggest score differential was just four points, as the teams exchanged the lead 11 times. At the break, the Falcons led the Vikings 28-27.

In the second half, an unsuspected scoring spree by Vikings junior guard Trishi Williams helped her team gain a 43-35 advantage with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game.

The Falcons began to contain Williams and started to chip away at the deficit. A 3-pointer by Harazin, who led the team with 16 points, gave the Falcons a 51-50 lead with eight minutes remaining. The Vikings regained the lead with 5:30 left.

Although the score was within two possessions until the final minute, SPU couldn’t close the gap. The Vikings converted six free throws in the final 56 seconds to secure the 72-62 victory. The Falcons shot just 29.6 percent from the field, including 18 missed layups.

“We played physical defense and rebounded well, but we didn’t make easy shots,” Heisey said. “We didn’t waste too much emotion [on the loss] and got ready [for] Simon Fraser.”

With Saturday’s win over Simon Fraser, the Falcons beat every team in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference at least once. This gives the Falcons ample confidence heading into the conference tournament.

“The biggest thing is, we know we can beat everyone, but we have also been beaten,” Heisey said. “We need to win. Since there is no guarantee anyone makes it to the [NCAA] tournament without winning the conference, we must take care of what we can control.”

SPU ends the regular season with a 17-9 overall record, 11-7 in the GNAC standings.

The Falcons’ victory over Simon Fraser puts the two teams in a tie for fourth place. They will play a rematch in the first round of the conference tournament.

The GNAC tournament takes place tomorrow, Friday and Saturday at Saint Martin’s in Lacey. The winner of the Falcons-Clan matchup on Thursday will face conference-leading Alaska Anchorage on Friday.

“We need to build momentum,” Heisey said. “I’ve seen growth in this team, and it’s time to finish strong.”

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Title: GNAC tournament next for Falcons | Author: Danny Ciaccio | Section: Sports | Published Date: 2012-02-29 | Internal ID: 8075

Danny Ciaccio

Sports Editor Danny Ciaccio is a junior journalism major. He has been sports editor for The Falcon since March 2012. Danny is also a PR assistant for Sounders FC and the marketing intern for ROOT SPORTS. He plans on finishing school in March 2015 and is a projected first round selection in the 2015 NFL Draft.