LAS VEGAS – (March 7) Seattle University women’s basketball led the entire game and knocked off Kansas City, 75-64, in the first round of the 2018 Western Athletic Conference (WAC) Championship Wednesday night. Kallin Spiller scored a career-high 28 points to go with 14 rebounds as the Redhawks advanced at The Orleans Arena.
SU (16-14), the fourth seed, will take on top-seeded New Mexico State in a WAC Championship semifinal on Friday at 2:30 p.m. The teams split two regular-season meetings, with the home side winning each contest.
The Redhawks were hit or miss against the UMKC press in the first half, breaking it over the top to find Spiller on the other end at times, but also turning the ball over 13 times to allow Kansas City to hang in.
Spiller hit a free throw and then made a layup to start scoring. A McKenzi Williams three made it 6-0 at the 7:43 mark. Kansas City hit a three, but Spiller found success at the back end of the press for two more lay-ins.
After another Spiller hoop, Williams finished through contact for an and-1 and a 15-8 advantage with 2:29 remaining in the period. The ‘Roos closed with five straight points to make it a two-point difference through 10 minutes.
Jacinta Beckley found Spiller for another bucket to start the second quarter and then Beckley pulled up for a transition triple for a 20-15 margin. Kansas City made two foul shots, but Spiller set up a Kamira Sanders trey to stretch the lead. Montgomery assisted on a Madeline Dopplick fast-break layup with 6:59 to go.
UMKC (11-19) cut its deficit to seven, but Spiller hit Sanders for a layup and then the freshman scored inside, making it 32-23 with 3:30 to play in the half. A Montgomery hoop expanded the difference and then Montgomery found Spiller with a drop-off dish for an 11-point lead. Sanders closed the frame with a drive to beat the horn and send the Redhawks into halftime with a 38-25 cushion.
Montgomery set up Spiller for a layup 10 seconds into the second half, as SU quickly re-established its freshman post in the third. After a Montgomery basket, Sanders assisted on a Spiller lay-in with 7:01 showing on the clock, making it 44-29. Montgomery sank a jump shot as the margin ballooned to 17 midway through the frame.
Kansas City tried to close the gap, as it got within 11, but Ashlyn Lewey came in off the bench to nail a three for a 51-37 difference. UMKC got back to a 10-point deficit, but Dopplick stepped into a triple with 12 seconds remaining, putting the Redhawks ahead, 54-41, after three periods.
In the fourth, Sanders drained a three from the right wing for a 16-point advantage. The sophomore followed with a three-point play and then Williams put an exclamation point on her career night. The freshman from Auburn, Wash., swished treys on consecutive possessions, putting the game out of reach with 7:18 left.
Spiller shot 13-17 from the field on her way to 28 points. She added 14 boards, including six on the offensive end, to go with two assists, a block, and a steal in 34 minutes. Williams put up a personal-best 14 points, including three triples. She also grabbed five rebounds. Sanders contributed 13 points, six boards, and four assists, while Montgomery claimed nine points, seven assists, and four rebounds.
SU held a 40-26 advantage on points in the paint and outrebounded the ‘Roos, 46-32. The Redhawks shot 48.4 percent from the floor and harassed UMKC into 36.4 percent accuracy on the night. Seattle U held All-WAC Second Team choice Samantha Waldron scoreless, as just four UMKC players scored in the game.
Seattle U has won first-round games at the WAC Championship in each of the last two seasons. It advanced to the WAC Championship game in 2017.