Eagles Close Out 2006-07 Regular Season

Feb. 26, 2007

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The Eagles enter their last week of play in the 2006-07 regular season still hanging onto a thread of hope for getting into the Big Sky Conference Tournament. Eastern Washington will play host to Northern Colorado (5-22, 2-12 BSC) and Northern Arizona (17-10, 10-4 BSC) at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday (March 1) and at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (March 3), respectively.

The Eagles (9-18, 4-10 BSC) are chasing Portland State (10-17, 6-8 BSC) for the sixth and final slot into the postseason tournament. Essentially Eastern needs to win both its games, have PSU loses both of its, and then have Northern Arizona finish ahead of Idaho State (13-13, 9-5 BSC) in the final standings. The tiebreaker situation is explained in full below.

"We just have to worry about taking care of what we can," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We are playing for the hope that there's a possibility for the tournament, but mostly we are playing for pride right now. The last three weeks, we have worked on just getting better every time we step on the floor, and I think we have done a good job of that. If we can continue doing that, we'll just let everything else fall where they may."

Additionally, Eagle fans will be able to say goodbye to a pair of seniors, who will play their final game at Reese Court on Saturday: Joanna Chadd and Leah Gonnella.

"It is always hard this time of year with the last few practices when you know that you are not going to coach these kids very much longer," Schuller said.

You can read more about these talented players below.

The Eagles have been able to stave off elimination and stay in the race for the Big Sky Tournament with some timely wins the past couple of weeks.

It all started on Feb. 15 when the Eagles snapped a three-game losing streak (and a stretch of having lost 9-of-10 contests) with a dominating 80-61 win over Portland State. The win allowed Eastern to move to within two games of the Vikings, while a loss would have placed Eastern in an almost-impossible situation of being four games out with four to go.

"We came out and really played together," Schuller said of the PSU game. "We had four kids with double digits in scoring, and I thought our defensive effort was outstanding."

Eastern had some outstanding performances in the PSU contest, as Joanna Chadd was hitting on all cylinders, making 7-of-10 shots, which included a 5-of-8 performance from beyond the three-point stripe.

Sydney Benson combined an outstanding defensive show with her eighth double-double of the season, as she scored 12 points and recorded a game-high 13 rebounds. Nicole Scott also played well defensively to go with 14 points and six rebounds.

"Sydney Benson really did a good job defensively against Kelsey Kahle (who entered the game third in the Big Sky in scoring with 18.2 points per game - she had 12 points versus Eastern on 5-of-15 shooting)," Schuller said. "Nicole Scott spent some time on her, too, but Benson had the majority of minutes against Kahle. We just stuck to the scouting report and did a great job slowing her down tonight."

The contest was close until early in the second half, when the Eagles broke away, going on a 21-6 run after the break for a commanding 60-41 lead with 11:43 remaining, and coasted from there. The lead would get as high as 21 and never got below 15.

The Eagles then played their hearts out in a tough 83-80 loss to Idaho State on Thursday (Feb. 22). Even down nine points with eight seconds remaining, the Eagles somehow got the ball back with 1.3 seconds on the clock with a chance to tie with a three.

"They handed it to us pretty well at our place a few weeks earlier (90-60 on Jan. 11), and we went in with a really good game plan and the team did a great job executing the things we asked them to," Schuller said. "We played with a lot of heart and energy and left it all on the floor. I was proud of our kids for not giving up; they kept coming and coming and made some big plays down the stretch to give us an opportunity to put the game into overtime."

Down, 83-74, with just eight ticks left, Jessica Huntington drained a three, stole the in-bounds pass, made a lay-up while being fouled and made the free throw to cut the deficit to 83-80. After a lay-up attempt by ISU was no good and the ball went out-of-bounds to the Eagles, Eastern had one last chance, down three inbounding the ball under Idaho State's basket. Unfortunately for EWU, the cross-court pass ended up sailing out of bounds and the Bengals ran out the clock.

Phynique Allen and Brittney Osborn, who made an important three-point shot with 16 seconds left, tied for the team lead in points scored with 18 apiece.

Two days later, the Eagles outlasted Sacramento State in a tough-fought road game, 66-63.

"Sacramento State is another team like us in the aspect that they are playing a lot better than they did earlier in the year," Schuller said. "They have played really good basketball lately and jumped on us early and got a little lead, but we just kept playing and playing and, in the second half, were able to get a small lead of our own. Our kids kept fighting, were resilient and did not give up. Down the stretch, they made plays, got the basketball to fall and came out of there with a hard-fought win."

Northern Colorado will be arriving in Cheney on a six-game losing streak dating back to a 70-45 home win over Sacramento State on Jan. 31. The Bears are 2-12 in their first season of Big Sky play after first playing a NCAA Division I schedule in 2004-05. The Bears played as an independent their first two seasons of Division I play.

Thursday's game will not only be UNC's first in Cheney, but will serve as the school's first-ever contest in the Pacific Northwest (Washington, Oregon or Idaho). In the team's first meeting on Jan. 20 in Greeley, the Bears topped Eastern, 78-54.

"Northern Colorado is a team that beat us pretty good at their place, and we obviously have to play much better than we did there to get that home win," Schuller said.

Northern Arizona is currently in third place in the Big Sky standings with a 10-4 mark, one game behind Weber State and a game ahead of Idaho State.

After winning 7-of-8 contests from Jan. 11-Feb. 3, the Lumberjacks have split their last four contests heading into their game at Portland State on Thursday.

In all-time play, the Eagles lead the series, 22-19, although the Lumberjacks were victorious in Flagstaff on Jan. 18 by a 76-51 score. Eastern has won 7-of-10 meetings and split last year with each team prevailing on its respective home court.

"Northern Arizona has got a great basketball team and are still jockeying for position in the playoffs, so they will come in with a lot of energy and enthusiasm," Schuller said. "They are a very talented basketball team, but we are at home and we want to take care of business at home and have our seniors go out on a positive note, so we are going to play hard and put together a great game plan to enable us to get those victories (against UNC and NAU)."

Tiebreakers Explained

The simple part of it is that for the Eagles to have any shot whatsoever to make the Big Sky Conference Tournament, Eastern needs to win both of its games this week and then have its two opponents, Northern Colorado and Northern Arizona, win each of their contests against Portland State. If that were to happen, PSU and EWU would finish tied for sixth with 6-10 Big Sky marks.

Then, it gets interesting. Since the Vikings and the Eagles split with each other, the next tiebreaker would be who did best against the first-place team, and if that was tied as well, down the standings, until the tie is broken.

Both Portland State and the Eagles were swept by Montana and by Weber State, the next opponents to look at would be Northern Arizona and Idaho State.

The Eagles were swept by ISU, but the Vikings were able to split with the Bengals. If the above scenario were to play itself out, the Eagles would split with NAU, while PSU would have gone 0-2 with the Lumberjacks.

So, if Northern Arizona finishes ahead of Idaho State, the Eagles have that tiebreaker advantage and would earn the final spot in the Big Sky Tournament. For that to happen, Idaho State would have to lose one of its final two games versus Weber State and Sacramento State, both at home.

If the Bengals to win both of those games and tie the Lumberjacks in the final standings, then it gets even more interesting.

Since the Big Sky Conference breaks ties from the bottom of the standings up, the PSU-EWU tie would need to be broken before the NAU-ISU one would be looked at. That means that after one sees that both Portland State and Eastern Washington went a combined 0-4 against the first- and second-place teams (Montana and Weber State), Idaho State and Northern Arizona would have to be looked at as one entity. Both PSU and EWU would have gone 1-3 combined against those two teams, so that would not break the tie. And no team below those two would break the tie. That would cause the RPI to determine who would fill the tournament slot. Through games of Feb. 18, the official RPI released by the NCAA had Portland State in the 256th slot and the Eagles were ranked 285th.

There is a chance that Weber State could drop into a three-way second-place tie with NAU and Idaho State, but that would be irrelevant, since both Eastern and Portland State have gone 0-2 against the Wildcats (or a combined 1-5 against the three tied teams).

Chadd and Gonnella Play Final Game at Reese

The Eagles will see a pair of seniors play their final home games this weekend in Joanna Chadd and Leah Gonnella.

Gonnella is a local player who played at the University of Toledo for a couple of seasons before moving back to the Inland Northwest to finish out her collegiate career with the Eagles.

While at Eastern, the Mead High School alumna responded to a slow start her first five games (five total points) to score 16 in a 69-61 win over Cal State Northridge. She also scored 14 points in a loss to Portland State later in the season.

In total, Gonnella scored in double figures on six occasions her first year at Eastern and finished the campaign with an impressive 12-point outing in the Big Sky quarterfinals, a 74-69 loss to Weber State. She cut the Wildcat lead to five with a three with 15:59 left, while tied the contest, 49-49, with another three with 11:39 remaining.

This year, Gonnella has had a pair of double-digit scoring performances, including a 15-point showing against Corban College. She also had 10 in a road game against Northern Arizona.

"I have been pleased with Leah," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "She shows up every day and works extremely hard. She has had huge games for us in her career and has been a great difference maker for us. She has been a good mentor for our young point guards, Phynique (Allen) last year and Jessica (Huntington) this year. I am proud of what she has done for us and am proud that she is finishing her career as an Eagle."

Joanna Chadd has had an outstanding four years in Cheney, both on and off the court.

Overall, Chadd is shooting 35.2 percent on three-point attempts (62-of-176), the 78th-highest percentage of all NCAA Division I players (11th in the Big Sky). Her 2.3 made threes per contests ranks Chadd 49th nationally and third among Big Sky players.

She has earned various spots in the Eagle record book this year. Her 62 three-point shots made currently places her third all-time (trailing second place by three and first by 14), while her 176 attempts is second (18 behind first). Complete top-10 lists can be viewed on page 6 of the PDF available at the top of this page.

In fact, her 62 makes tie her for 19th in the Big Sky record book, and she trails the fifth spot by just six.

In regards to Eastern's career records, Chadd is listed in seven separate top-10 lists: tied for seventh in games played (112 - will move up to sole possession of fourth with two games this week), third in three-point shots made (173), second on three-point attempts (510), fourth in three-point shooting percentage (33.9), seventh in assists (318) and tied for eighth in steals (118).

Her total three-point makes of 173 places her in a tie for 10th in Big Sky history, trailing eighth by two.

Chadd's free throw shooting percentage of 82.8 (48-of-58) is top-notch, as well. She does not have enough makes needed to be on the Big Sky charts (short by six), but would be fifth.

Chadd's top shooting performance of the year came on Feb. 15 versus Portland State, as she made 7-of-10 shots overall for a 70.0 shooting percentage. That shooting percentage was her highest since she made 5-of-7 shots (71.4 percent) in a 70-54 win over Denver on Dec. 29, 2004.

Her point total of 19 that night was her highest since she scored 22 points in an 84-66 win over the Rose City's other NCAA Division I program, Portland, on the final day of 2006.

Chadd has been honored each of her last two seasons as a member of the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII team. She is still in the running for All-American status this year, as that announcement will be made tomorrow (Feb. 27).

"Joanna has been here four years and has had quite a career, seen a lot of ups and downs, ins and outs and everything else," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "But if there ever was a player who got everything out of her ability, it is Joanna Chadd. She did not leave the gift untouched; she used it and used it, played hard every single day, every single drill. She is one of those kinds of players who does not come along very often in a coach's career and will be sorely missed because of her work ethic and how much she cares. Her teammates respect her a great deal because of how much it means to her."

Sensational Sydney

Sydney Benson has had an impressive set of performances of late, having recorded double-doubles in six of her last 12 games.

Benson is currently second in the Big Sky Conference in rebounding, as she has tallied 8.5 rebounds per contest. She is secure in remaining in that position through the season's conclusion, as she is ahead of third-place Nubia Garcia of Weber State by 1.4 per game and trails leader Natalie Doma of Idaho State by 3.3.

The sophomore also is high on the blocks chart, as she currently is in third place with 1.41 per contest.

She had an outstanding outing against Portland State on Feb. 15, as she combined an impressive defensive outing with her eighth double-double of the season. She scored 12 points and grabbed a team-high 13 rebounds in the contest.

In the Eagles' road trip to Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado (Jan. 18-20), Benson averaged 12 points and 12 rebounds per game.

Her rebound total of 14 versus Northern Colorado is an Eagle season high.

She was also a perfect 14-of-14 from the free throw line that week and made 16 straight overall before that streak was snapped. On Feb. 1 and 3, she had two of the best free throw shooting performances of the season for the Eagles, nailing all six shots against Montana State and each of her four attempts versus Montana.

Against UNC, Benson helped the Eagles narrowly miss tying the school record for free throw percentage. Eastern hit on 19-of-20 shots from the charity stripe in that contest (the Eagles made 20-of-20 in a 62-56 win at Idaho on Jan. 27, 1984). Benson hit on 8-of-8 in that contest.

Awesome Allen

Phynique Allen had an outstanding game on Jan. 13 versus Portland State, as the sophomore set season highs for the Eagles in points scored with 26 and free throw percentage after nailing all 10 attempted. The last Eagle to make 100 percent of her free throws while attempting 10 or more was Kathleen Nygaard, as she hit on 10-of-10 in a 61-60 win over Portland on Dec. 30, 2001.

Allen also has earned season-high totals for the Eagles in assists (8) and steals (5), both earned versus Portland State on Dec. 31. She tied the assist total against Sacramento State on Saturday (Feb. 26).

She has shot well from the free throw line this year, as evidenced by her 74.8 shooting average on charity tosses (89-of-119). The 89 makes are currently tied for ninth on the single-season Eagle record chart.

In Eastern's 80-61 win over Portland State on Feb. 15, Allen had the second-highest point total of any player in the contest, as she came off the bench to score 15 points on 5-of-8 shooting (2-of-3 from beyond the three-point line). She also contributed four assists in the contest.

Sensational Scott

Eagle freshman Nicole Scott set EWU season highs in Eastern's game on Feb. 1 with Montana State in both field goals made and field goals attempted, as she hit on 10-of-23 shots that day and scored 23 points, tied for the fourth-highest point total attained by an Eastern Eagle so far this year.

Scott was hitting on all cylinders on Jan. 13 against the Portland State Vikings, as well, as she hit on 8-of-13 shooting for a then-career-high point total of 19. Her previous high of 14 was set two days previously versus Idaho State.

Then, against Sacramento State on Jan. 28, she hit at an even higher accuracy rate (72.7 percent) by making 8-of-11 from the floor and accumulating 18 points.

Scott's five blocks at Portland State are the most earned by an Eagle in a contest so far this season. The total is also tied for the most attained by any Big Sky Conference player in 2006-07.

The freshman then continued her top performances against PSU with a 14-point performance on 6-of-11 shooting in Eastern's 80-61 win on Feb. 15. The freshman also grabbed six rebounds and recorded a pair of assists and steals, tying personal season (and career) highs in both categories.

What Free Throw Shooting!

The Eagles as a team have shot an amazing 80.8 percent from the charity stripe (147-of-182) since Jan. 13, improving on their 65.9 percent shooting prior to then (226-of-343). Since Jan. 13 (an 11-game stretch), the Eagles have shot better than 80 percent from the free throw line on seven occasions after doing so just once in the previous 16 contests.

Taken even more recently, the Eagles have an amazing 85.7 percent free throw shooting average from their last six games (78-of-91) and shot 89.7 percent in two games last week (35-of-39).

What is even more impressive is that the team's season free throw shooting percentage of 71.0 would set a school record.

In the UNC game on Jan. 20, the Eagles made 19-of-20, narrowly missing tying the school record for free throw percentage (the Eagles hit 20-of-20 in a 62-56 win at Idaho on Jan. 27, 1984).

Eastern Washington went on a hot streak from the charity stripe from Jan. 13-20, as the Eagles made 56-of-67 (83.6 percent) in a three-game road stretch at Portland State, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado. They then followed that up against Montana State and Montana on Feb. 1 and 3 by shooting 85.7 percent from the floor in those two contests (24-of-28).

Earlier this season, the Eagles broke their school record for free throws made in their dramatic 103-102 overtime loss to Gonzaga on Dec. 9, shooting 36-of-46 from the charity stripe.

The previous record of 35 made was set on Feb. 5, 2004, in an 80-75 Eagle win over Montana State. The school record of 48 attempts was also set in that contest.

The 36 made versus GU is also the fifth-highest total in Big Sky Conference history.

Individually, Katy Baker is currently on a streak of 23 consecutive makes dating back to Dec. 9, while Sydney Benson made 16 in a row from Jan. 13-20.

An Impressive Start

The Eagles started the season with a 3-0 record for the first time in 22 years by sandwiching a pair of home victories over Montana Tech and Corban College with an impressive 20-point road win over UC Irvine.

Versus the Montana Tech Orediggers, Eastern used 12-2, 14-2 and 7-0 runs to claim the 75-69 victory. The final spurt came with the score tied at 67 just two minutes from the final buzzer.

A 22-5 run early in the second half versus UC Irvine allowed the Eagles to pull away from the Anteaters in their 80-60 victory.

Versus Corban College, Eastern Washington used a commanding 30-9 run to put separation between the two teams and won, 96-57.

Eagles Open League Play with Clutch Win

The Eagles opened up the 2006-07 Big Sky Conference season in dramatic fashion, pulling out a 69-66 victory on the road against Montana State.

In the game, the Eagles countered a 9-0 MSU run to end the first half with a 12-0 spurt early in the second stanza. After that point, the teams remained close down the wire, but Joanna Chadd erased Montana State's final lead of the game with a big three with 3:59 left. That basket gave EWU a 64-62 advantage.

Chadd put the game away with a jumper with 21 seconds left, and the victory was secure when MSU's Alyssa Nelson missed a three-point shot at the buzzer.

After the Bobcats shot 48.6 percent in the first half, the Eagles put the clamps down and held MSU to just 17.9 percent shooting in the second stanza.

The win marked the fifth consecutive Big Sky season-opening victory for the Eagles.

Let's Party Like Its 19 ... I Mean 2006!

Eastern Washington completed an impressive win over the visiting Portland Pilots, 84-66, on Dec. 31. The game was just the fourth in history for Eastern on New Year's Eve, and EWU improved to 3-1 in games played on this date. The previous games on that particular date came in 2003 (a 72-69 win over Gonzaga at Spokane Arena), 2000 (an 81-58 home victory over Colgate) and 1993 (a 64-42 loss at Washington).

The game saw a number of impressive individual performances for the Eagles. Phynique Allen set (and still holds) Eagle season and personal career highs in both assists (8) and steals (5). Joanna Chadd tallied 22 points on 8-of-12 shooting (5-of-8 on three-point attempts) to mark the sixth time so far this season she has hit or surpassed the 20-point mark. Brittney Osborn set a career high in points scored with 20 versus the Pilots.

Eastern took control of the game right from the opening tip, taking commanding 14-0 and 21-2 leads. The Pilots would not drain its second field goal of the game until 10:28 had elapsed off the clock.

Eastern Washington Welcomes Southern Teams

Northwestern State (located in Natchitoches, La.) and Davidson (located in Davidson, N.C.) became the first two schools from the South to ever visit Cheney to play the Eagles, taking on Eastern in a four-day span in mid-December.

The closest school geographically to the South to ever play on the Eastern Washington campus was Texas-Pan American (Edinburg, Texas), who fell to Eastern, 59-45, on Dec. 6, 2002.

Eastern Washington defeated Northwestern State on Dec. 15 by a 71-67 score to snap a six-game losing streak before falling to Davidson, 67-58, three days later.

Spokane-Area Rivalry: 103-102!

Eastern Washington and Gonzaga played a run-and-gun contest on Dec. 9, before the visiting Bulldogs pulled out a razor-thin 103-102 overtime victory over the Eagles.

Neither team had previously played in a game in which both squads scored 100 or more points.

The last time that Eastern Washington reached 100 points in any game came 19 years ago, in a 105-79 win at Portland State on Dec. 11, 1987.

In the 35 contests played between the teams, never before had even one team scored 100 or more points. The overtime contest was the first in the all-time series, as well.

The 102 points scored is still tied for the most by a Big Sky team in 2006-07, but is the most against NCAA Division I opposition (Idaho State did so versus Montana Tech and Montana-Western).

UW Visits for First Time in 16 Years

The Washington Huskies paid its initial visit to Cheney in 16 years on Nov. 21 and Eastern gave them all they could handle.

The Huskies took control the majority of the game, taking as high as a 15-point lead, but the Eagles would quickly respond with a 17-4 run to tie the contest at 42-all with 11:29 remaining. The teams remained close down the stretch before Washington claimed its 67-59 win. The Eagles trailed by just two with 5:08 left and four with 1:49 remaining.

Eagles Fourth in Big Sky Attendance

Eastern Washington has seen a high number of people attend games so far this season, as evidenced by its average attendance of 859, which places the Eagles fourth among Big Sky Conference teams.

The two Montana schools pace the league, as Montana has drawn 3,879 per contest and Montana State is averaging 1,264. Idaho State is third at 907. Following the Eagles are Weber State (801), Northern Arizona (528), Northern Colorado (367), Portland State (364) and Sacramento State (222).

Roster Breakdown - Hometowns

Eastern Washington's roster, as always, has a strong Washington flair to it, as nine of the 14 players reside in the Evergreen State. Four of those are from cities located east of the Cascades: Katy Baker (Spokane), Anny Eller (Kennewick), Leah Gonnella (Spokane) and Jessica Huntington (Yakima). Of the remaining five players, one each is from California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, and Oregon.

And the Honors Go To ...

Eastern Washington as a team was honored over the summer, being named to the Women's Basketball Coaches Association (WBCA) Academic Top 25 Honor Roll. It marked the fourth consecutive season the Eagles had ranked third or higher in the rankings. That span included a No. 1 ranking in 2003-04.

Audio/Video Coverage

All of the 2006-07 women's basketball home games will be audio broadcast free of charge, along with selected road contests. Announcing the contests are Alyssa Chambers and Brandon Hansen. For more information, access www.teamline.cc.

All games played either at Reese Court or on the road in Big Sky Conference play will be available to view on the Internet at www.bigskytv.org. The cost is $59.95 for a 2006-07 season pass for EWU games (which also includes men's basketball contests and archived football and volleyball games) and $99.95 for all Big Sky teams. Single games can be viewed for $6.99.

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