First year coach guides team to Big Sky Tournament

State Hornet Staff

After securing a third-straight Big Sky Conference Tournament berth, Sacramento State women’s basketball team is looking to finally take home a championship.

The Hornets have an overall record of 18-10 and 10-10 Big Sky mark – good for seventh in the conference – and will seek to get things off on the right foot when the tournament starts in Grand Forks, N.D., Thursday.

Sac State finished its season tied for sixth with Montana State in the conference, but fell to seventh because Montana State owns the tiebreaker.

Last season under Jamie Craighead, Sac State made it to the semifinals of the conference tournament, but lost 74-53 to eventual tournament champions, the University of Montana.

Sac State first-year head coach Bunky Harkleroad said he knows his team needs to be focused on both ends of the floor if it wants to make out of this year’s final round.

“It’s called March Madness for a reason,” Harkleroad said. “We have to have an unbelievable focus and energy. We’ll have to be hitting on all cylinders.”

Harkleroad said his first year at head coach for the Hornets has been enjoyable, and making it to the conference tournament has made it all the more eventful.

“You know it’s tough because you’re so busy and caught up in the moment,” Harkleroad said. “But Sac State is a great place and I’m just grateful for the opportunity just like I was when I first got here.”

Hornets’ senior guard Alle Moreno, who is the program’s all-time leader in 3-point shots made, said while capturing a tournament spot is exciting, there is still work to be done.

“It was pretty exciting winning the last game at home and clinching a spot,” Moreno said. “It’s exciting for about a day and a half, but then you realize (we) have business to do.”

Moreno said that the Hornets will have to maintain their composure throughout the tournament if they want to come away with the trophy.

“It’s going to take a lot of maturity on our part and I think we need to really play as a team,” Moreno said. “When we play as a team, not many people can stop us.”

Harkleroad said hisd team will continue to work hard until the end of the tournament, whenever that may be.

“Until the last play of the season, you have to try to continue to improve,” Harkleroad said. “We’re excited for what’s in store and we’re going to try and do our best.”

Southern Utah and North Dakota – who split the regular season title – will be the first and second seed, respectively, followed by Montana, Eastern Washington, Idaho State and Montana State.

The Hornets were a combined 0-4 in regular season matchups with Southern Utah and Eastern Washington, but split season series games against the other five tournament participants.

Sac State will open its tournament play with a Thursday matchup against Southern Utah. Tip-off will be at 12:30 p.m.