• Tue. Mar 28th, 2023

Northern Arizona women reach second straight Big Sky title game

ByBrenden Martin

Mar 7, 2023
Regan Schenck Big Sky semifinals

Photo by Will Hopkins | Elevated Media

BOISE, IdahoThe top-seed Northern Arizona Lumberjacks are going to the Big Sky Conference Women’s Basketball Championship Game for the second year in a row, defeating the No. 4 Eastern Washington Eagles, 74-57.

After last year’s heartbreak in the title game against Montana State, NAU senior guard Regan Schenck reflected on the idea of a second chance to win it all.

“I was here last year,” Schenck said. “Montana [Oltrogge] has been here and won before, the twins, Emily [Rodabaugh], so we have some experience that we haven’t had before so I think it will be really helpful going into that game. But, I mean, tensions are still high. Emotions can get the best of us, but I think that helps that half our team has been in this position.”

The Lumberjacks hit the ground running in the first quarter by jumping on an 8-0 run to take a 9-5 lead. Eastern Washington junior guard Jacinta Buckley ended the run with a layup, but the Eagles’ 2-for-9 start from the floor ended up as their second-wort shooting game of the season, going 19-for-67 from the floor and shooting at a 28.4% clip.

Eastern Washington’s worst shooting game of the season came on Dec. 15 against Oregon, which was ranked No. 15 in the nation at the time.

“Northern Arizona, they’re a tough team,” Eastern Washington head coach Joddie Gleason said. “They’re long. They’re athletic. They rebound the heck out of it and it felt like they controlled the boards and that ultimately controlled the game.”

The Eagles hung around in the first half due to bad forced passes by a Lumberjack squad known for pushing the pace. Schenck committed four fouls in the half, just as much as the entire Eastern Washington roster.

Northern Arizona nearly doubled Eastern Washington in turnovers, 14-8, and had six fewer shot attempts. However, strong second and third-chance points paved the way for the Lumberjacks to pull away with a much more efficient game.

Freshman forward Sophie Glancey was a prime example of that. The Boise native who was in attendance for Northern Arizona’s tournament run last season had one of her best performances. Glancey earned her first career double-double with 13 points and 10 rebounds, five of them being on the offensive glass.

“I think it’s just super important,” Glancey said. “It’s just who wants to get the ball more. I have days when I want to and days where I don’t. Today was just one of those days where I really wanted to get those rebounds.”

Glancey did all this while still nursing a hand injury she sustained off the court. Both her hands have been wrapped up for much of the season, but only her shooting hand has been taped during the tournament. Her form at the free-throw line was the one thing that was off, making just one of her five shots.

“It was so cool,” Glancey said. “I’ve been hoping to have a good game for a while now.”

Other Lumberjacks also dealt with injuries during the game. Sophomore guard Nyah Moran started the day with back-to-back 3-pointers, but took a hard hit to the face at the end of the first quarter, drawing a lot of blood.

NAU head coach Loree Payne said it was all about her players wanting to get back in the game.

“It’s fun to see them be able to respond and not get passive,” Payne said. “Nyah took a shot and we couldn’t get her nose to stop bleeding. She’s grown a lot in that she used that as motivation and got back out there and do some really great things.”

Moran came back in the second quarter, but utilized media timeouts to continue getting her wound looked at. She played without much trouble, ending with 16 points.

Graduate forward Montana Oltrogge reaggravated the left knee injury she originally suffered against her former school Idaho State last month. Oltrogge played with a knee brace in the previous three games on limited playing time.

Oltrogge fell to the floor and got back up without putting any weight on her left leg. She went to the locker room but quickly walked back out with her brace in her hand. She got her knee taped up in hopes to return but sat on the bench the rest of the game.

“We’ll obviously check on her and see what’s going on, but not really sure where that leaves us,” Payne said. “But just really proud of the other kids that stepped up and filled some really big roles.

Both teams moved fast in the second half, but turnovers on both sides kept either one from breaking away. An Eastern Washington 7-0 run was stopped by a Schenck 3-pointer, one of her four threes in five attempts.

NAU ended the first half on a rapid 4-0 run to lead 34-31 heading into the locker room.

The Lumberjacks blew the doors off the Eagles in the third quarter, outsourcing them 21-9. Northern Arizona held Eastern Washington to 3-of-14 shooting in the quarter. Schenck began the half with another turnover but made up for it with another three. She reined it in by not turning over the ball the rest of the game and dropping nine of her game-high 22 points in the quarter.

Schenck said she started to heat up as the game progressed.

“I had a rough little start there, but I feed off my teammates really and I just think everyone on the court, on the bench, we’re all giving each other energy no matter if things are going our way or they aren’t,” Schenck said.

Rebounds also played a role in Northern Arizona’s second-half rout. The Lumberjacks crashed the boards with 15 rebounds on their way to earning 10 more than the Eagles in the game. Glancey made a huge putback and-one and converted a 3-point play.

The lockdown in Boise continued for the Lumberjacks in the final quarter, extending their lead to as much as 20 with over a minute left. Northern Arizona went on a quick 6-0 run led by a three from junior forward Emily Rodabaugh.

Northern Arizona will await the winner of the other semifinal game between No. 3 Sacramento State and No. 7 Portland State. The two winners will meet for a championship bout on Wednesday, March 8 at 3 p.m. MST at Idaho Central Arena in downtown Boise.

The game will be streamed on ESPN+ and ESPNU.