Wildcats experience deja vu in season-ending loss

Joe Traub

Welch-Coleman throws a no-look, behind-the-back pass under the hoop. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

In their opener of the Big Sky Conference tournament, the Weber State University women’s basketball team experienced a problem that plagued them throughout the regular season. The Wildcats were competitive in a majority of their games, but one poor quarter usually doomed them on the way to a last-place finish.

WSU led Eastern Washington after three quarters in Boise, Idaho, but a hot-shooting Eagles team came out in the fourth quarter and blew the doors off. EWU made five three-pointers in the final ten minutes while scoring 33 points to defeat the ‘Cats 81–74 and end Weber’s season.

Welch-Coleman saves a pass from bouncing out of play. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

“I’m proud of my team,” Wildcats head coach Velaida Harris said. “It was a long season but I think the most important thing is we were in every game. We could have easily just given up, but the leadership of our seniors was critical for them to keep pushing.”

It was the last game for seniors Emily Drake and Jaiamoni Welch-Coleman in Wildcat uniforms. The guards did their part to keep WSU in it, as Welch-Coleman finished with 30 points and Drake scored 16.

“It was a good experience these last four years with Jai,” Drake said. “Through the biggest ups and downs, we have stuck together and that is something special. It was emotional to come off the floor, but sooner or later it needs to be done.”

Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

The Wildcats had defeated the Eagles in Cheney to close the regular season 48 hours earlier. EWU head coach Wendy Schuller said redemption was on the minds of her squad.

“Saturday was emotional. It was Senior Day and there was a lot going on,” Schuller said. “We learned a lot from that game about what we could and couldn’t do on both ends of the floor. Our team did a great job applying it.”

Freshman guard Jessica McDowell-White was the hot hand for Eastern, going five of six from beyond the arc while tying for the team lead with 19 points.

Wildcats and Eagles scramble for a loose ball. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

The first quarter was fast paced with each team using a different formula to get on the scoreboard. The Wildcats worked the ball inside often, driving to the basket for field goals and also going 5–6 from the free-throw line.

Meanwhile, the Eagles were on fire from beyond the arc, making six three-pointers in the opening stanza as they led 24–21.

Weber State continued to viciously attack the hoop in the second quarter. They converted on nine free throws in the first half and then Drake made the first long ball of the game for the Wildcats, as they took a 34–31 lead with three minutes left in the half.

Wildcat Emily Drake dives for a ball in an attempt to keep it in play. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

EWU took a brief lead, but Welch-Coleman hit a stepback three for the last bucket before halftime to square it up at 37.

The ‘Cats went on a 10–1 run in the early stages of the third quarter, keyed by two three pointers by freshman guard Kori Pentzer. The native of Melba, Idaho, just 40 minutes away from Boise, helped give her team a seven-point lead. WSU kept the momentum for the rest of the quarter and led 54–48 with 10 minutes remaining.

Drake puts up a two point jump-shot as Welch-Coleman fends off a defender. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt

With the loss, Weber State finishes the 2018-19 season with a record of 6–25.

“It was a very disappointing loss because I think it was a game we could have won. It was in our control,” Harris said. “But when it comes down to it, I’m just proud of my youngins.”

Eastern Washington improved to 12–19 and will face the third-seeded Idaho State Bengals on Tuesday at 9 p.m.

Eagles and ‘Cats fight for the ball. Photo credit: Joshua Wineholt