TWIN FALLS, Idaho — It wasn't their intention, but the SLCC women's basketball players helped make Idaho a happier place on Friday.

The Bruins made North Idaho's day by stumbling through the first half and then falling short on a late comeback attempt in the Cardinals' surprising 76-67 win in the Region 18 tournament semifinals.

Seventh-ranked College of Southern Idaho also had to be thrilled and relieved with the upset, considering No. 22 SLCC was the only Scenic West team it lost to during the regular season.

Not only did SLCC's loss spoil an anticipated 1-2 showdown between the league's top teams, but it also kept the Bruins out of the conference tournament championship game for the first time in six years. SLCC (23-8) won the tourney and participated in the NJCAA tourney the past two years.

"Yeah, I'm disappointed. I'm disappointed for our fans," said SLCC coach Betsy Specketer. "We'd love to be going back to the national tournament, but if you're not the best team in the region when you have to be you're not going to go — and we weren't."

After falling behind by 19 points in the second half, the Bruins clawed their way back into the game. Michelle Pace sparked a furious rally, helping SLCC trim the lead to four points with 2 1/2 minutes left.

The Bruins even had the ball with a chance to get within a bucket after Pace forced a jump ball with the possession arrow pointing SLCC's way. But they quickly turned it over, and NIC grabbed the momentum back and clinched the game from the free-throw line.

Pace, who led SLCC with a double-double of 20 points and 11 rebounds, scored 13 of her game-high total in the second-half rally. Her aggressiveness paid off as she went to the free-throw line 15 times, and hit 13 of her foul shots. Keshia Catten added 14 points, including 12 in the second half, Krista Farr tallied her own double-double with 11 points and 13 boards, and BreAnne Haslam scored 10 points to go with her nine rebounds for SLCC.

Their improved second half wasn't quite enough to overcome a rough first half in which the Bruins only hit seven of 22 shots and committed 12 turnovers while falling behind 39-26.

"I felt like defensively we were really soft. They did everything they wanted to do," Specketer said. "We started to have a little pity party for ourselves about that and then we carried that over on the offensive end. And then frustration sets in end."


SOUTHERN IDAHO 95, CEU 62: At Twin Falls, Idaho, Eastern Utah got 19 points from Kendra Dalebout, but the Golden Eagles struggled to keep up with the powerful hosts after point guard Erin Richardson injured her knee.


CARROLL 72, WESTMINSTER 49: At Butte, Mont., Elisa Leader scored 14 points and had seven rebounds and Alexis Tucker scored 11, but the 18th-ranked Griffins couldn't overcome shooting just 31.5 percent against the No. 13 Fighting Saints in the semifinal loss.