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USU Eastern comeback bid falls short in semifinals

Snow College's Kelsi Wells shoots over USU Eastern's Brooke Slade (31) and Abbie Kay (30) during a game earlier this season. Wells finished with 10 points and nine rebounds to help lead Snow College past Eastern 67-54 in the SWAC semifinals on Friday afternoon.

By KEVIN SCANNELL
Sun Advocate sports reporter

Winning in the Scenic West Athletic Conference is no easy feat. Whether it's in the regular season or the conference tournament, every game is a battle to walk away the victor.

Despite their best efforts, the USU Eastern women's basketball team fell to Snow College 67-54 in the SWAC semifinals on Friday afternoon. Down by six at halftime, Snow College began to add to their lead early in the second half which was too much for Eastern to overcome.

Snow College used a balanced attack on offense which saw five players finish in double figures with Kaitlyn Diaz leading the Badgers with 14 points.

Eastern sophomore Priscila Santos, playing in her final game as a Lady Eagle, led the team with a team-high 28 points on 13-of-24 shooting. But despite Santos' best effort, the team may have run out of the energy needed to make another comeback for the second game in a row, head coach Dave Paur said.

"We just flat out ran out of gas against Snow College," Paur said in a phone interview on Monday morning.

Much the of the team's energy may have been used up during the comeback against Colorado Northwestern CC one day earlier. Paur said the team had to fight back from a 15-point deficit midway through the second half before taking over the game and getting a 72-68 win to advance to the semifinals.

Eastern was hurt by the 3-point shooting of Snow College throughout the game, which finished shooting 7-of-20 (35 percent) compared to Eastern who as a team went 0-of-6 from beyond the arc.

Snow College used a balanced attack on offense which saw five players finish in double figures with Kaitlyn Diaz leading the Badgers with 14 points.

"It's hard to beat a team like Snow when five of their players score in double figures," Paur said.

Santos led the team against Colorado Northwestern CC with 34 points and eight rebounds in the win. Freshman Abbie Kay played a huge role hitting three 3-pointers as she finished with 18 points while adding eight rebounds.

"Priscila and Abbie willed us to win the game with their play against CNCC," Paur said.

Those two helped offset a big performance from CNCC's Jaynelle Johnson who led the Spartans with 28 points including 5-of-13 shooting from beyond the arc.

Paur noted the tough weekend Eastern freshman Hailee Parry and Amy Arbon had shooting the ball during the two games at the tournament.

Eastern was playing in the SWAC tournament without 6-foot-2 sophomore Caitlin Nelson, who tore her ACL during their win over College of Southern Idaho on March 2.

Eastern freshman Brooke Slade, filling in for Nelson at center, finished with five points and 11 rebounds over the two games. Paur credits Slade with stepping into the center position during the tournament, despite playing power forward throughout the regular season.

"She stepped in and did a good job with Caitlin injured," Paur said.

With 62 more points scored in the tournament, Santos, the 5-foot-11 guard from Brazil, finished her record breaking sophomore year at USU Eastern with 872 points or 29 points per game which led the NJCAA.

"She had an amazing career," Paur said of Santos. "We may never see a player as good as her come to USU Eastern again."

With the end to the season, USU Eastern will have to replace outgoing sophomores Santos, Nelson and Kay along with Candice Cornaby, Kathryn Bigelow and Jasmine Petit.

The USU Eastern women finished the season 18-14, which marks one of their most successful seasons over the past few years. Paur said the season would be one to remember not only because of their record, but also due to the players and how they overcame obstacles during the season.

"They did a really good job considering the circumstances of losing players to injury and the tough schedule we played this season," Paur said. "It was one of the most enjoyable seasons for me. The team was very unselfish out on the court and the bench players worked as hard as they could to contribute every game."




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