Warrior women hold off Spokane, 73-71

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SPOKANE — Walla Walla locked up its 13th consecutive trip to the women’s NWAACC Championships here Wednesday night as the Warriors held on for a 73-71 Eastern Region basketball victory over Spokane.

Sophomore Caitlin Duncan dropped home a pair of clutch free throws with 15 seconds to play for what proved to be the winning margin as Walla Walla remained one step ahead of Columbia Basin in a hotly contested race for the regional championship.

“We’re still in first, we’ll be no worse than second and we’re going back to the tournament,” WWCC coach Bobbi Hazeltine said. “The girls knew what the situation was going into the game, and we’re all very happy with the win.”

Walla Walla leads the division with a 10-2 record and is 21-3 overall going into its final two games of the regular season. The Warriors host Big Bend Saturday and close out division play at Blue Mountain next Wednesday.

Columbia Basin defeated Big Bend 65-64 on a basket at the buzzer Wednesday night to remain just a game behind the Warriors at 9-3, 13-11 overall. The Hawks host Spokane Saturday and finish up at Treasure Valley Wednesday.

There’s not a lot of difference between finishing first or second heading into the tournament, Hazeltine said.

“Either way we are matched up against a team from the South Region,” she said. “That’s the toughest region in the NWAACC, and anybody in that division is good, so I don’t know that it matters.

“The only difference would be the game time — 8 in the morning vs. 6 at night.”

The NWAACC Championships will be played March 2-5 at the Toyota Center in Kennewick. The East’s No. 2 seed faces the third seed out of the South in the tournament’s 8 a.m. opener, the No. 1 seed takes on the South’s fourth seed at 6 p.m.

Duncan, who finished the night with 18 points on 6-of-15 shooting from the floor, put the Warriors in front 73-69 with 15 seconds on the clock. Spokane’s Rylie Holsinger, who led all scorers with 30 points, responded with a basket to slice the WWCC lead in half.

Walla Walla’s Brooke Hawkins was then fouled with five seconds remaining. She missed the front end of a one-and-one opportunity at the line, but by the time the Sasquatch could track down a long rebound, a desperation shot from beyond mid-court was the only remaining option and it didn’t come close.

“Those two free throws by Caitlin were so huge,” Hazeltine said. “She has been playing with so much confidence, especially the second half of the league season.

“She did get in some foul trouble,” the coach added. “We had to sit for awhile in the first half and again in the second half. We need her on the floor.”

Duncan scored 11 of her 18 points in the second half. Sophomore Hailey Felgenhauer scored 17 of her team-high 22 points in the first half as the Warriors built a 41-36 lead.

“Hailey kept us in the game in the first half and then Caitlin and Michelle Seitz (14 points, nine rebounds) took over in the second,” Hazeltine said.

The Warriors led by as many as 13 points in the second half but could never put the Sasquatch away.

“They kept chipping away and chipping away,” Hazeltine said of the Sasquatch. “They were hitting everything (53 percent from the field, 57 percent from 3-point distance).

“We beat them by 17 points (62-45 on Jan. 23) at our place, but they have gotten a lot better.”

WALLA WALLA 73, SPOKANE 71

WALLA WALLA (73) — Seitz 5-15 2-3 14, Hawkins 2-3 0-1 4, DeLong 3-3 0-0 6, Duncan 6-15 4-5 18, Rad 1-2 0-0 2, Felgenhauer 9-16 4-5 22, Kelsey 2-5 2-2 7. Totals 28-59 12-16 73.

SPOKANE (71) — Brons 3-4 3-4 11, Holsinger 13-23 22 30, Pleasants 0-1 0-0 0, Cook 4-5 2-2 11, Wilson 2-5 0-3 6, Williams 2-5 2-2 6, Corona 2-4 2-2 7, Christiansen 0-0 0-0 0, Freeman 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 26-49 11-15 71.

Halftime — WWCC 41, Spokane 36. 3-point goals — WWCC 5-12 (Seitz 2-6, Duncan 2-5, Kelsey 1-1), SFCC 8-14 (Brons 2-2, Holsinger 2-4, Cook 1-2, Wilson 2-3, Corona 1-2, Pleasants 0-1). Total fouls — WWCC 14, SFCC 16. Fouled out — none. Technical fouls — none. Rebounding — WWCC 35 (Seitz 9, Felgenhauer 9), SFCC 25 (Brons 6, Williams 6). Turnovers — WWCC 11, SFCC 13. Assists — WWCC 14 (Seitz 6), SFCC 8 (Holsinger 2, Cook 2, Wiliams 2).

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