College Sports

Sac State women end season with loss in highest-scoring Big Sky tournament game ever

Sac State women's basketball coach Bunky Harkleroad on loss to Eastern Washington

Sac State women's basketball coach Bunky Harkleroad talks about team's 100-97 loss to Eastern Washington in Big Sky Quarterfinals March 9 in Reno.
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Sac State women's basketball coach Bunky Harkleroad talks about team's 100-97 loss to Eastern Washington in Big Sky Quarterfinals March 9 in Reno.

Sacramento State couldn’t hold a late six-point lead or stop sisters Hayley and Delaney Hodgins as Eastern Washington rallied for a 100-97 win Wednesday night in the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball tournament quarterfinals at the Reno Events Center.

Hayley Hodgins had 27 points, younger sister Delaney had 26 and forward Ashli Payne had 19 points and 18 rebounds as the second-seeded Eagles (20-11) advanced to Friday’s semifinals against Idaho. The Hornets end their season at 14-17.

Sac State sophomore Maranne Johnson, who had a career-high 31 points in Monday’s tournament-opening win over Southern Utah, continued her hot hand. She led the seventh-seeded Hornets with 25 points.

Adella Randle-El had 21 points, nine rebounds and seven assists, Gretchen Harrigan had 20 points and 10 rebounds and Margaret Huntington had 14 points and 11 rebounds, including eight at the offensive end for Sac State.

The two teams combined for the highest-scoring game in tournament history. Sac State and Southern Utah previously set the record in the opening round, finishing with 191 points.

The game was an excellent showcase of what’s good and entertaining about women’s basketball: A fast pace, strong fundamentals, lights-out shooting and plenty of rough-and-tumble play.

The game was an excellent showcase of what’s good and entertaining about women’s basketball: A fast pace, strong fundamentals, lights-out shooting and plenty of rough-and-tumble play.

“It was a fun game,” said Sac State coach Bunky Harkleroad. “I wish we would have won and hit another shot or two, and they would have missed a shot or two. But I thought it was a great mid-major basketball game. Points were scored, and it came down to the wire.”

The score was tied eight times and the lead changed five times. Eastern Washington’s biggest lead was 10 points early in the third quarter; Sac State led by eight early in the first quarter.

Harrigan’s layup with 4:15 to play gave Sac State a 91-85 lead. But Eastern Washington started pecking away and Hayley Hodgins’ jumper tied it 95-95 with 1:04 to play. Violet Kapri Morrow put Eastern Washington ahead for good with two free throws with 21 seconds remaining.

“I thought Eastern Washington did a tremendous job,” Harkleroad said.“They had a good mix. They had a lot of twos, threes and ones, that’s kind of a troublesome stat for us.”

The Hornets came in leading the nation in steals and were second in turnovers forced, but Eastern Washington had four fewer turnovers and had the ball stolen only seven times.

The Hornets, who set Big Sky tournament records for three-pointers (19) made and attempted (58) in beating Southern Utah 102-89, were 11 for 40 against their taller opponents.

The Hodgins sisters split the scoring load for Eastern Washington. Hayley, a senior, and the school’s all-time scorer, had 18 points in the first half. Delaney, a sophomore, went for 18 in the second half.

The teams split during the regular season. Eastern Washington defeated the Hornets 100-83 Jan. 30 at The Nest. The Hornets returned the favor 94-91 on Feb. 18 at Eastern Washington.

I learned a lot, especially from coach Bunky. I wanted to leave my mark and make my teammates proud.

Adella Randle-El, Sacramento State senior

It marked the final game for the tireless Randle-El, the Hornets’ All-Big Sky Conference first-team guard. She took well to Harkleroad’s demanding up-tempo “The System.”

She broke the school’s season record for steals with 117 and had the most points (517) scored in a season since 2009-10. It is sixth most in program history.

“Sacramento State has been very good to me, and I’m glad I chose this school,” said Randle-El, who played two years for the Hornets after transferring from a Midwestern community college. “I learned a lot, especially from coach Bunky. I wanted to leave my mark and make my teammates proud.”

Harkleroad said he was pleased with his team’s effort and how far they came during the season. They won seven of their last 10 games.

“I haven’t given us much help from a coaching perspective,” he said. “We played one of the tougher preseason schedules in the country and kept our heads up.

“I’m certain we believed we could win today, go far in this thing and maybe win it all. But those dreams are gone right now and we will have to regroup and come back next year better.”

Bill Paterson: 916-326-5506, @SacBee_BillP

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