March 8, 2008
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team saw its 2007-08 season come to a close on Saturday afternoon (March 8) with a 65-54 home loss to Montana State. The Eagles kept the contest close until the last five minutes, when the Bobcats proceeded to extend a three-point lead to 13 with an 11-1 run.
The game, one that MSU needed to win to secure the third seed at next week's Big Sky Conference Championship, was close for the first 35 minutes, as neither team was able to garner a double-digit lead until the very end.
Montana State went up by as many as eight in the first half, 16-8, before the Eagles fought to get back into the game. A Julie Piper lay-up with 3:34 to go in the half gave Eastern a 24-23 lead. Twenty-nine second later, Kyla Evans nailed a three to earn for EWU a 27-25 advantage, and the Eagles went into the locker room up 28-25.
After the break, Eastern earned its largest advantage of seven, 34-27. That came with 17:33 showing on the clock on the strength of a 10-2 run spanning both halves. Montana State (16-12, 11-5 BSC) then responded with its own 10-2 run and the game remained close until MSU had its final spurt with five minutes to go.
Two Eagles had double-digit point totals today, with Piper leading the way with 17, her highest point total in a game this year.
"We just let her do her thing," Schuller said of Piper. "She really did a nice job and was really aggressive offensively. She's someone who has really grown a lot this year and has come a long way. I feel like all three of our freshman did (including Evans and Tatjana Sparavalo)."
Also, Sydney Benson contributed 11 tallies and tied for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Amy Bratvold also grabbed eight caroms. Jessica Huntington had four assists and three steals in the contest, while Evans contributed three helpers and Piper had a trio of steals of her own.
Playing her last game in an Eagle uniform, senior Kari Darnell finished her career with a solid performance, scoring three points on 1-of-2 shooting and grabbing four rebounds and blocking a Bobcat shot.
"Kari played really hard," Schuller said. "She was a great senior for us - she did everything that was asked of her. She has a lot of heart and was a great kid to coach. I'm glad I had the opportunity to work with her. I know she is going to be really successful; she's a great student and will go far."
The Eagles close the season with a 4-25 record, 1-15 in Big Sky play, although the team is very much looking to the future.
"Kansas State won the Big 12 last night after finishing last last year," Schuller said of KSU clinching a share of the league title after tying for the bottom spot a year ago. "That will be a team we will use as a good example of what can be done, and they did it with the core of kids they had last year. I think the sky's the limit for our group, and we have talent. There is a tremendous opportunity to make a huge turnaround, but it is going to take a really hard off-season. We have got to get stronger and better defensively as a basketball team."