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College Basketball

Westmont Women Fall in NAIA Quarterfinals

(BILLINGS, Mont.) After a largely successful season characterized by a Golden State Athletic Conference Tournament Championship, No. 7 Westmont Women’s Basketball (29-5) was defeated in the quarterfinal round of the NAIA Tournament. The Warriors fell to top seeded and second ranked Lewis-Clark State of Idaho (34-1) by a score of 67-72.

Lewis-Clark State came out hot and went on an 8-0 run in the first quarter, and then had a 5-0 run at the start of the second to take an 11 point lead with 4:27 left in the half (17-28). After that, Westmont harnessed some momentum and went on a 10-4 run to come within five points by the end of the first half (27-32).

“I think early on they hit great shots and we missed a lot of shots that we would normally make,” explained head coach Kirsten Moore. “But I was really proud of our fight to get back in it before halftime.” In the first half the Warriors went two for twelve from the three-point line (16.7 percent) and had an overall first half field goal percentage of 31.0.

Westmont continued with this momentum when they went on an 11-3 run at the start of the third quarter to go up by three (38-35) – Kayla Sato hit three three-pointers and Cora Chan put up a layup.

Sato had a game and career high of 31 points on the night. Over the course of the past three national tournament games, she averaged over 21 points a game.

Lewis-Clark State worked their way back up to a two point lead, and then Westmont answered with a 7-0 run to go up by five with two minutes remaining in the third. LC Sate’s Jossilyn Blackman made back-to-back baskets in the final 38 seconds of the quarter to make it a one point game going into the final period (49-48).

Westmont led by one with 5:50 remaining in the fourth quarter, and then LC State went on a pivotal 8-0 run to take a seven point lead with 3 minutes left to play – Blackman made back-to-back baskets and a free throw, and Lauren Johnson hit a three-pointer. LC State held this lead until Sato hit back-to-back baskets to make it a three point game with only 38 seconds remaining (62-65). For the remainder of the game, the Warriors fouled to stop the clock, but LC State made seven of their next eight free throws.

“There were different times tonight where it was a game of runs a little bit, but we were on the wrong end of the run at the end of the game,” noted Moore.

“We knew coming in that it was going to take our best effort to win tonight,” continued Moore. “That team is very, very good, with an incredible point guard - so, I am really proud of how we fought. I mean a couple shots that we normally make go in, and it is a different story - but I think the thing that we are most worried about all year isn’t the scoreboard, but who we are and how we do things.

“I am really proud of who we are and who this group was as a team this year. I am proud of how they choose to fight for their identity and fight to be a light – from their energy, to how they carry themselves around when we are traveling or on campus. I think this team fought for the right things all the way down to the last possession.”

Following the game, Moore reflected on the five seniors who have made a lasting impact on Westmont Women’s Basketball.

“The seniors have just had unbelievable careers and I couldn’t be more proud of all five of them (Aysia Shellmire, Cora Chan, Aimee Brakken, Jenny Cuadra, and Sydney Hedges) – only three of them play, but the other two have also been incredibly influential on our program,” explained Moore. “I think that as a program we talk about choosing to come to Westmont because it will prepare you for the rest of your life. Who they have become through this process over four years, how much they have improved, how much they have grown as people - I just couldn’t be more proud and I know that they are prepared to make a positive impact as they leave Westmont.”

This year’s seniors have qualified for the NAIA National Tournament each of their four years in a Warrior uniform –they made it to the first round, the semifinal round, the round of 16, and to the quarterfinal round, respectively.

At the 2017 Women’s Basketball NAIA Tournament Banquet senior Aysia Shellmire was honored as a Women’s Basketball Coaches Association All-American.

“One of the hardest personal awards to get is the All-American WBCA All-American award and it is only given to ten people in the country each year,” said Moore, so for her to be honored in that way obviously shows that she is incredibly respected. I think if she chooses, she has got a future of playing basketball ahead of her, and if she doesn’t I know that the things that she learned as a part of this program will help her be successful.”

Additionally, Shellmire finishes her career as Westmont’s all-time scoring leader with a total of 1,492 points.

Moore shared her final reflections on the 2016-17 season.

“When we only had nine players healthy at the beginning of the year, nobody would have thought we would have made it this far and here we are - we made the final eight, and we were just a couple possessions away from making the final four,” said Moore. I think everyone should be really proud of what we accomplished this season. I am certainly really proud of who this team fought to be and how we represented Westmont, God and our families.

Moore closed with an insight into next year’s team.

“I think we have a really bright future,” said Moore. “The seniors were such a huge part of this team and we have a smaller team so there is not a ton of returners coming back, but I think what we saw in Kayla Sato over the last three days is someone who can lead this program into the future - with her competitiveness, her fight, her athleticism, and with her leadership. She really took ownership of this experience and helped us rise to another level.”

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