LAS VEGAS (AP) - The Seattle Redhawks were perhaps wondering what it would take to win the Western Athletic Conference Tournament championship and finally get to the NCAA Tournament.
In their fourth finals in five years, and up eight with just over three minutes left against Cal State Bakersfield, the Redhawks saw their lead dwindle down to one in the final minute.
But tournament MVP Kamira Sanders sank two free throws with 22 seconds left and the Redhawks hung after one last desperation 3-point attempt in the final seconds for a 57-54 victory Saturday afternoon.
Sanders scored 20 points and Alexis Montgomery added 15 to win its first WAC championship game. Madeline Dopplick added 11 points for the fourth-seeded Redhawks (18-14).
“I’m numb. I’m just taking it all in,” said Seattle coach Suzy Barcomb, who is in her second year at the helm. “Kamira was amazing. It was a well-played game. Bakersfield is a very athletic team.”
Sanders had five rebounds and made all six free-throw attempts.
“We made history. Nobody (at Seattle) has done that,” she said. “I’m still shook up. It probably will not hit me until we get back to the hotel.”
Montgomery, who had six rebounds, also made all nine of her attempts at the foul line.
The Redhawks went 18 of 19 from the foul line (95 percent), and 17 of 45 from the field (38 percent).
“The beauty of the WAC is you have to have different game plans,” Barcomb said. “Not all calls are called. To make 18 of 19 at the line was amazing. Alexis’ shots weren’t great, but that’s because they’re sending two or three people at her.”
There were 11 ties and 19 lead changes. Bakersfield’s biggest lead was four and the largest for Seattle was that late eight-point spread. The Roadrunners scored the next seven points, including a Jazmine Johnson layup with 27 seconds left.
But Sanders converted both free throws five seconds later.
“Those free throws were definitely big,” Sanders said. “You can take away a 3-point shot and give them a two. A three-point lead is way more comfortable. It’s one less thought on defense.”
Cal State Bakersfield (18-13) could not get a 3-point attempt on its next possession as Johnson’s runner in the lane missed. The Roadrunners had a last chance after a Seattle turnover with 3.5 seconds left, but Aja Williams’s 3-point attempt from deep at the buzzer didn’t hit the rim.
Jazmyne Bartee led the second-seed Roadrunners with 15 points, and Johnson had 12.
“We knew it would be a hard fought game,” Cal State Bakersfield coach Greg McCall said. “I’m so proud on how (we) battled, from the bench, to the players on the floor. Our coaching staff kept the players motivated and help them keep their composure.”
The teams split the regular season with both winning at home.
Seattle: The Redhawks stunned top-seed New Mexico State in the semifinals, 84-61 Friday afternoon. Seattle held the three-time defending champs to 16 rebounds as they led by 27 at halftime. . Montgomery, who had five assists and two blocks Saturday, was the first WAC player to win Player of the Week five times this season.
Cal State Bakersfield: This was the Roadrunners first WAC title game appearance. . Since joining the WAC in 2013-14, the Roadrunners have at least made the semifinals four out of five years, with last year being the exception. Bartee, a red-shirt senior, played at UNLV about five miles across The Strip. She was 6 for 11 from the field.
Seattle: Awaits a spot in the NCAA Tournament
Cal State Bakersfield: Awaits word for a berth, either in a lesser tournament.
Copyright © 2021 The Washington Times, LLC.