Hosting the first playoff game in program history, The Evergreen State College women’s basketball coach Jen Schooler wasn’t about to put blame on what could or should have been. In the end, she said, her team had a game where the offense didn’t feel comfortable.
“It didn’t feel like we were moving together,” the first-year coach said. “We were tentative.”
In spite of Evergreen’s lead of six points inside five minutes to go, visiting Oregon Tech — a perennial playoff powerhouse — rallied for a 69-62 victory in Tuesday’s opening round of the Cascade Collegiate Conference women’s basketball tournament at the Costantino Recreation Center.
Oregon Tech (21-10) advances to face top-seeded Eastern Oregon (25-5) at 7 p.m. Friday in La Grande, Oregon, in the tournament semifinals. Evergreen’s season ends at 16-10.
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Trailing 28-24 at halftime after finishing the first half with one field goal over the final 11:08, Evergreen mounted a rally and led by as many as eight points at 51-43 inside of eight minutes to play on a bucket by Natasha Trinidad, a River Ridge graduate, who has scored in double figures in five of her past six games.
Fifteen of her team-best 19 points came in the second half, but momentum shifted when LaNiecia Weatherspoon (eight points in 22 minutes) was whistled for her fifth foul and had to sit down with 6:02 remaining and Evergreen’s lead at 53-47. That left the home team with zero subs; the Geoducks’ roster has been limited to only six players for the past three weeks.
“We had to be smart on the fouls,” Schooler said.
That meant playing cautiously, including for Trinidad, who picked up her fourth foul at the 6:18 mark.
And it didn’t take long for the Owls to tie the game at 59-all (2:05 off the clock) and then take the lead for good at 61-59. In all, OIT made 19 of 21 free throws.
Sadee Jones was one rebound shy of her conference-leading 14th double-double; she finished with 13 points and nine rebounds in her final college game.
In Evergreen’s seven prior appearances in the conference tournament since the college started a women’s basketball program in 1997, all have been first-round road games as a fifth seed or lower.
Not 20 minutes after the game, Schooler was already commending her team.
“They’ve done an amazing job,” she said. “I don’t think they believed what they’ve done today.”