By Dani Saunders
The 2017-2018 season has been monumental for the women’s basketball team. Not only did they defeat a team that is nationally ranked at #13 in the top 25 Division III women’s basketball polls, they also competed for the Northwest Conference championship against George Fox University. Amongst these accomplishments, there were two players who received all Northwest Conference honors. Junior guard Britanny Kochenderfer received Second-Team All-Conference honors by scoring in double digits in multiple games in the 2017-2018 and senior guard Kylie Towry received First-Team All-Conference honors by leading the Northwest Conference in three-point baskets made and averaging around 17 points a game. The women’s basketball coach, Peg Swadener, was voted Northwest Conference Women’s Basketball Coach of the Year as well.
On Thursday, February 22nd, the Bearcat women’s basketball team took on Whitman College in a semi-final game within the Northwest Conference tournament. Prior to this, the women’s basketball team has not played in the conference tournament since 2001. The Bearcats held a steady lead throughout the game, and as time was winding down, the score was 50-44. When there was less than three minutes left in the game, Whitman began to answer back to the points that Willamette had thrown up earlier in the game. After a couple free-throws, a turnover on the part of Willamette and a few for baskets made, the lead was reversed and Whitman lead Willamette 52-50. Sophomore Drew Farmer of Willamette answered back with a jumper to make the scored tied and then senior Ashley Evans hit a three-point shot with 16 seconds left to secure the win for the Bearcats. This win on the 22nd placed Willamette into the conference championship.
This last Saturday, the 24th, the women’s team took on George Fox University in the championship game. The women’s team has not had a winning season since the last time they made it to the conference tournament, which again was back in 2001. Towry also broke the Willamette scoring record to top off her senior season, scoring 1,433 points.
The first half of the game pointed towards an easy Bruins win, but the second half of the game is when it got interesting. The first half ended with a score of 31-15; but, after a couple minutes into the third quarter, the lead was cut down by Willamette 37-25. After this point, the score was flip-flopping back and forth between the Bruins and the Bearcats. At one point, the Bruins had a 16-point run, but the Bearcats always seemed to answer back. At the end of the third quarter, the score was 46-35. Towry scored a three-point shot to kick-off the fourth quarter of the game. After the scoring bounced back and forth, the score became 49-46 with five minutes remaining. Scoring again was a toss up as both teams were fighting as hard as they could. Towry and Kochenderfer were the ones scoring for the Bearcats with less than five minutes left in the game. The score became 52-50 with a tight Bruin lead, but within the last two minutes of the game they managed to score eight more points and defeat the Bearcats.
Needless to say, the women’s basketball team battled hard this season and made some history. It was a long season with ups and downs, but that just means that next year’s season is set up for even better success. Nice job women’s basketball, and congratulations on a historical season!