MONMOUTH — The Wolves women’s basketball team (7-5, 3-2 Great Northwest Athletic Conference) came through at home on Friday night, downing Montana State Billings 66-57.
Defense and free-shooting helped pave the way. WOU held the Yellowjackets (8-8, 2-2) to .293 field-goal shooting and sank 17 of 20 free throws, including 11 of 12 in the fourth quarter.
“This is a resilient team,” WOU coach Holli Howard-Carpenter said. “We just kept grinding after a slow start.”
It took Western Oregon 5:27 to score, and that came on a contested shot thrown up off the backboard by freshman guard Ana McClave.
Still, the Wolves trailed only 4-2 at that point and 12-7 after going 3 of 13 from the floor in the first quarter.
The pace picked up in the second quarter, and Western Oregon pulled into a 25-25 halftime tie on freshman Caitlin Wheeler’s 3-pointer with 45 seconds remaining.
That basket gave the Wolves an extra shot of energy, their coach said.
“They were like, ‘Let’s go,’” she said.
At intermission, the Wolves pondered just the opportunity to be playing – no longer a given because of the pandemic.
“We said that all we can control is what we have tonight, and we have 20 more minutes that are promised to us, so let’s not take that for granted,” Howard-Carpenter said.
WOU never trailed again.
And down the stretch, the Wolves never let the Yellowjackets get within one possession.
“This team has showed some mental toughness,” Howard-Carpenter said. “They were very focused and disciplined.”
MSU Billings, which can score inside and outside, made just 2 of 21 shots from 3-point range.
“We had a good game plan, and the kids executed it well,” Howard-Carpenter said.
Tresai McCarver, a junior point guard, led the Wolves with 21 points and six rebounds. She is getting more consistent.
“She comes in every week for film and puts in extra work,” Howard-Carpenter said. “The game is slowing down for her, and she is seeing the floor and taking opportunities when they come to score and rebound.”
Sophomore center Alexis Wright also had six rebounds and posted 16 points.
“I’m so proud of her,” Howard-Carpenter said. “She’s still a young player who averaged only about 10 minutes per game as a freshman two years ago and didn’t have any games last year (because of COVID-19). She worked extremely hard in the offseason, in the weight room and doing cardio, and is super coachable.”
Sophomore guard Cali McClave had 12 points and a team-high five assists.
Another key for the Wolves has been the all-around play of junior forward Amber Winkler, who hails from Sheldon High – especially with the recent absence of the team’s top scorer, sophomore forward Meadow Aragon from Grass Valley, California.
“Amber has stepped up and really played well,” Howard-Carpenter said. “Defensively, she’s so long and can guard a post or a guard. And she’s one of the best shot blockers in the conference.”
Aragon, who is at 12.7 points per game, should return this week.
Another WOU game scheduled for last week against Seattle Pacific was postponed for health and safety reasons.
Going into this week, the Wolves were tied for fourth in the GNAC with Northwest Nazarene and MSU Billings. Alaska Anchorage was 3-0, Seattle Pacific 3-1 and Western Washington 2-1. Anchorage and MSU Billings were slated to play on Monday.
The Wolves are 6-0 at home and 1-4 away. Western Oregon’s two games this week will be on the road. The Wolves will be at Northwest Nazarene on Thursday and at Central Washington on Saturday.
“We’ve got to find a way to do what we do at home on the road also,” Howard-Carpenter said. “Especially our shooting. We haven’t been shooting very well on the road.”
The Wolves (3-8, 2-1 GNAC) had home games with Western Washington and Simon Fraser postponed.
WOU will go to Nampa, Idaho to meet Northwest Nazarene on Thursday. From there, WOU heads to Ellensburg, Wash., for a Saturday game at Central Washington.
Track and field
Ana Popchock sparkled for Western Oregon in the University of Washington Indoor Preview at Seattle last Saturday.
The sophomore from Maupin turned in the second-fastest women’s 60-meter hurdles time in WOU history, clocking 9.04 seconds.
In the men’s 3,000, Bailey Smith and Keanu Daos moved into the fourth and eighth all-time slots, respectively, with finishes of 8:27.47 and 8:36.69. Smith is a sophomore from Cody, Wyoming. Daos is a junior from Kennewick, Wash.
Hunter Hutton, a sophomore from Bandon, posted the fifth all-time WOU indoor mile mark (4:07.78). It also ranks ninth in GNAC history.
Freshman Maliyah Thompson from North Salem High is top 10 on the school list in two events after her 9.24 in the 60-meter hurdles (10th) and 8.08 in the 60-meter dash (ninth).
Maya Hopwood, a freshman out of Bend High, now ranks eighth in the 60-meter dash. She ran 7.92.
Next for the Wolves in Saturday’s George Fox Indoor, followed by the Portland Indoor No. 2 on Sunday.