Seattle University women’s basketball (20-11) made their first appearance in the WNIT, as the automatic qualifier to the tournament, but the Redhawks were not able to overcome as Saint Mary’s (21-10) came away with the first round win, 68-51.
“I think it’s always tough when you have to go on the road, and when you do that, it’s always defense and rebounding that’s going to win games,” said head coach Joan Bonvicini. “We’ve had a really good year and there’s a lot to build from. We’re returning three juniors who are really good, and I think this was a good eye-opener for them, and shows us some things we can work on. I’m still really proud of this team.”
Brenda Adhiambo (Mombasa, Kenya) put the Redhawks on the board first with an early jumper at 18:58 and Kacie Sowell (Ventura, Calif.) tied the game for the first time, 4-4, at 16:59.
Ashley Ward (Ventura, Calif.) added a pair of free throws and Sylvia Shephard (Alta Loma, Calif.) hit a three at 15:40 as the Redhawks took the 9-4 lead before the first media timeout.
On a 9-0 run over the next two minutes, the Gaels powered back thanks in part to back-to-back baskets by Jackie Nared to lead, 13-9.
Sowell and Shephard hit layups to retie the game at 13 before Nared regained the lead for St. Mary’s on a layup at 11:53. A pure defensive game over the next three and a half minutes, the score remained the same until Taelor Ross (Vancouver, Wash.) tied the game, 15-15, with a pair of free throws at 8:24.
Kate Gaze hit a three for the Gaels to start a 14-0 run as they took the lead, 29-15. Nared drove in a layup and sunk a pair of free throws to cap off of the run at 1:24.
Kristin Stoffel (Mill Creek, Wash.) made a three-point play with a layup and a made free-throw after a foul to bring the Redhawks within 11, 29-18, but they were not able to get closer as the margin remained 11, 31-20, at halftime.
Seattle U decreased the margin to seven, 31-24, on a layup and two free throws by Adhiambo, but the Gaels increased their lead back to 12 four more times over the next three minutes.
As Nared was fouled, she made both free throws to put Saint Mary’s ahead by 15, 47-32. The Redhawks were able to decrease the margin to single digits one final time, 49-40, at 10:34 after a three-pointer by Shephard energized the team, but the Gaels followed with an 11-2 run to lead, 61-42, at 5:36.
St. Mary’s led by as many as 22, 68-46, at 1:36, but Makenna Clark (Lake Tapps, Wash.) and Shephard added a layup and a three-pointer to close the margin to 17, 68-51, which was the final score.
Shephard led the Redhawks with 20 points and five steals, and Sowell recorded her 17th double-double of the season with 10 points and 13 rebounds.
Nared led all players with 24 points, also adding 13 rebounds. Gaze also added 10 points for the Gaels, and Danielle Mauldin grabbed 11 rebounds.
From the field, Saint Mary’s shot 38.9 percent (21-for-54) to Seattle U’s 28.3 percent (17-for-60). The Redhawks led from the free-throw line (76.5 percent to 70.4 percent).
The loss ended a historic and successful season for Seattle U, as they recorded their second straight 20-win season and their second straight postseason appearance. The Redhawks, in their first year in the Western Athletic Conference, earned the regular season conference title, and look forward to building upon their success in the 2013-14 season.