SALT LAKE CITY – The fifth-ranked Westminster College women’s basketball team dominated the second half of its Frontier Conference Tournament semi-final game to defeat Montana Western 64-39 on Friday night in the Behnken Field House.
It took Westminster (26-3) a little while to adjust to the slow pace that Montana Western (16-16) played at in the first half. The top-seeded Griffins managed just 36 percent shooting in the opening half and they were out-rebounded 19-14 by the sixth-seeded Bulldogs. The game was tied four times in the first 20 minutes with the two teams trading leads on five occasions. Western led 22-21 at the break.
“We came out in the second half and started to get points in the paint,” head coach Shelley Jarrard said about the halftime adjustments. “We started making good cuts and Tia and Cyd were getting to the basket.”
The second half was a different story as the Griffins outscored Western 43-17 after intermission. They shot 59.5 percent from the field in the half and scored 34 points in the paint. Westminster scored the first eight points of the second half and eventually extended the run to 18-2 to lead 39-24 with 11:28 remaining. UMW would not get closer than 12 the rest of the way as the Griffins closed it out with a 15-6 run over the final 7:56.
“The kids responded and were tough tonight,” Jarrard said of the team’s performance. “Our energy changed and we started getting to loose balls and making second chance baskets.”
Tia Pappas was dynamic in the second half as she scored 15 of her career-high 19 points after intermission. The sophomore shot 8-of-11 from the floor and had eight rebounds, two assists and matched her career-best with six steals. Nicole Yazzie added 12 points and four assists in her 27 minutes. While no other Griffin reached double figures, all 10 players scored at least two points and they had a 33-12 edge in bench scoring.
Westminster would finish the game shooting 49.1 percent from the floor and recorded 21 assists on 28 made field goals. The Griffins crashed the boards in the second half, pulling down a 25-5 edge in the second half to finish with a 39-24 advantage. They scored 14 points from 14 offensive rebounds while turning 15 Western turnovers into 21 points. UMW shot just 28.6 percent from the floor and only 23.5 percent after halftime.
Brittney Leibenguth made four treys for Western to finish with a team-high 12 points. Sammi Bignell and Roxy Thurman added six points apiece.
Westminster will look to the program’s first Frontier Conference Tournament title when it hosts No. 2 Carroll on Monday night in the Behnken Field House. The action will begin at 7 p.m. and be carried live on Griffins TV and in Utah on Comcast 6.