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SEATTLE (Feb. 25) – Seattle University women’s basketball took New Mexico State to the wire Saturday afternoon, but could not pull out a Western Athletic Conference (WAC) victory, falling, 64-61, at the Connolly Complex. Kamira Sanders scored 20 points to lead the Redhawks.

“I thought we played with emotion and passion,” said Coach Suzy Barcomb. “I would love to earn the right to play them again in the WAC Championship.”

Despite the setback, Seattle U (12-16, 9-4 WAC) can still clinch the second seed in the WAC Tournament with a win over Utah Valley on March 4. The Redhawks’ season sweep of CSU Bakersfield looms large, as SU holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over the ‘Runners, who are also 9-4 in the league. UTRGV sits in fourth at 8-5. The Redhawks could finish between second and fourth depending on the results of the final day of the regular season.

On Saturday, the Aggies (21-6, 14-0 WAC) held a small margin for much of the second half before SU made a late push to test NM State. An Aggie layup made it 56-47 with 7:47 left. Sanders quickly came back with a lay-in of her own and then Alexis Montgomery drained a deep triple to get the hosts back within four. The visitors split two foul shots and then Ashlyn Lewey did the same for the Redhawks.

New Mexico State scored what would be its last field goal for a six-point lead with 4:59 left, but Kaylee Best finished a three-point play on the other end, making it 59-56. After an Aggie free throw, Best scored in the paint again, getting SU within 60-58 with 4:18 to play.

Wilma Afunugo made 1-of-2 foul shots with 1:06 remaining, inching Seattle U closer. The Redhawks earned a stop, but could not score on their trip. SU was forced to foul, where Gia Pack sank two free throws for a 62-59 edge with 27 seconds showing on the clock. The home side came up empty on its possession and NM State made a foul shot to seal the decision with 15 seconds left.

Sanders, making a push for WAC Rookie of the Year, put up 20 points on 6-12 shooting. She hit a career-high three three-points and converted 5-6 free throws in 35 minutes of play. Best had another stellar floor game, tallying 11 points, 7 rebounds, 5 steals, and 3 assists in 38 minutes. Afunugo contributed 11 points and 5 boards, while Montgomery added nine points and six rebounds. The Aggies had four players score in double figures, led by Zaire Williams, who made six threes on her way to 19 points.

The teams were largely even in a competitive first half. The score was tied after one quarter and the visitors entered halftime with a 28-27 edge. NM State scored to start, but Afunugo answered with a layup. The senior then scored in the lane for a 4-3 lead at the 7:42 mark. The Redhawks got another defensive stop and then Sanders sank a three-pointer. After an Aggie free throw, Ashlyn Lewey replied with a long two-pointer, giving SU a 9-4 advantage with 6:58 to go.

The visitors gained the lead, but another bucket by Afunugo made it 11-10 in Seattle U’s favor. Delanie Parry made a move and scored to expand the margin, but Williams hit a three on the other end, tying the contest at 13. The Aggies made two free throws, but Best came up with a steal in the backcourt and went for a layup, scoring to make it 15-all.

In the second frame, Sanders split a pair of foul shots and Montgomery made a lay-in. NM State committed a turnover, setting up a Claire Metoyer jumper that gave SU a 20-15 lead with 8:13 remaining in the half. New Mexico State came back with eight straight points, but Sanders slowed the spurt with two free throws. An Afunugo foul shot tied the contest at 23, and after another Aggie trey, Montgomery drained a jumper. Two Best free throws put the Redhawks back on top at 27-26, but NM State connected on two foul shots to corral a 28-27 edge at the half.

The visitors stretched their lead in the third period, taking control entering the fourth. A Sanders layup opened second-half scoring. After two Aggie foul shots, Sanders drilled a trey, putting SU ahead, 32-30, at the 8:54 mark. NM State tied it on its next trip, but a Montgomery jumper put the Redhawks back up. Lewey made a triple to give Seattle U a 37-33 advantage, but the Aggies came back with a 9-0 run. Best’s layup stopped the rally and then Sanders nailed a three to get the hosts within four. Following an NM State free throw, Afunugo scored in the lane. A late Aggie three gave the visitors a 50-44 lead through 30 minutes.

Seattle U closes the regular season with a home game against Utah Valley on Saturday, March 4. Tip-off for senior day is set for 4 p.m. at the Connolly Complex.

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