SALT LAKE CITY – The fifth-ranked Westminster College women’s basketball team won the first Frontier Conference Tournament championship in school history with a 63-48 win over No. 24 Carroll (Mont.) in Monday night’s title game in the Behnken Field House.
Westminster (27-3) was playing host to the championship game for the fourth time in the last five seasons, but the Griffins had gone winless in those previous three chances. This was the first trip to the championship game for Carroll (20-9) since the 2011 season.
“That was a great second half,” head coach Shelley Jarrard said. “We held them to 17 points and really played the defense we wanted.”
It appeared that Westminster was starting to take control of the game midway through the half and when Amy Krommenhoek knocked down a three at the 8:30 mark, the Griffins held a lead of five. Carroll responded with eight straight points to retake the lead and then Kalee Junkermier made a trey before the buzzer to give Carroll the 31-30 lead at halftime.
The hot outside shooting of Carroll seemed to dominate the first half. The visitors finished with seven made threes in the first half with only four baskets from inside the arc. Westminster was able to hang around the game thanks to forcing seven turnovers and turning them into nine points.
Westminster came out in the second half determined to make school history. The Griffins scored 14 of the first 19 points of the second half with five different players scoring during the stretch. Bailey Snelling made the ninth three of the night for Carroll with 10:44 to play to cut the Griffin lead to five. That would be the last basket scored by Carroll for the next 7:44 of the game, and the Griffins put a 10-3 run on during that time to secure the victory.
The Griffins outscored Carroll 33-17 in the second half while holding the Saints to just 2-of-8 from beyond the arc after halftime. Westminster shot 44.4 percent from the floor in the game and was 6-of-14 (42.9%) from beyond the arc. The Griffins came up with 17 assists on 24 made field goals with only six turnovers. Westminster also controlled the boards 31-27 and finished with 18 points from the 20 Carroll miscues.
“Nicole Yazzie really made some big shots tonight,” Jarrard said. “Her play in the second half was really a key for us tonight.”
Yazzie wasn’t going to let this chance at a title get away as she scored 18 points on a night she shot 8-of-15 from the floor. The senior added two assists and two steals to her line in the last game she will ever play in the Behnken Field House. Fellow senior Allie Eastman had a historic night as her 12 points moved her over the 1,000-point plateau for her career, making her the seventh player in school history to achieve the feat.
“Words cannot explain how great this feels right now,” an emotional Yazzie said after the win. “We have been working towards this and it feels great to reach our goal my senior season.”
Tia Pappas had another great night off the Griffin bench, scoring 11 points and helping the team to a 17-5 edge in bench scoring. Pappas also recorded three assists and one steal. Brooke Larsen finished with eight points and eight rebounds, and Cydney Tibbitts had five points, nine rebounds, six assists and two steals.
“Even when Cyd isn’t making shots I have to leave her in,” Jarrard said of the senior. “She is a great defender and we need her on the floor.”
Megan Patterson led Carroll with 18 points behind the strength of four made treys. She made all four of her threes in the first half and finished 7-of-10 from the floor. Baily Snelling made 3-of-8 from beyond the arc to finish with nine points while adding four assists.
Westminster clinches an automatic invite into the NAIA National Championships with the win. On March 6, the NAIA is providing a free graphical selection show to reveal the 32-team bracket for the 33rd annual NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship. The event is scheduled to begin at approximately 6 p.m. MST on www.NAIA.org.