Sac State women’s basketball season ends with first-round upset

Hornets get taken out by the Wildcats 74-64


Jordan Latimore

Graduate guard Lianna Tillman attempts a floater against Weber State Monday, March 7, 2022 at Idaho Central Arena in Boise, Idaho. Tillman finished with 23 points in the Hornets’ season-ending loss to Weber State in the Big Sky Tournament.

John Cabales

After what started off as a good day for the Sacramento State women’s basketball team in Boise, Idaho, it ended in heartbreak, as the Hornets were bounced out of the Big Sky tournament in the first round with a 74-64 loss to Weber State in Idaho Central Arena on Monday. 

The Hornets started the day off with great news as graduate guard Lianna Tillman was named the Big Sky Conference MVP, something no Hornet had ever done before. 

“All the credit to my teammates, they allowed me to be me and the coaches allowed me to be me,” Tillman said.

Sophomore center Isnelle Natabou was unanimously picked as newcomer of the year coming into the matchup against the Wildcats.

“For Lianna to have the season that she had was truly remarkable,” Campbell said. “Izzy has grown as much as any player I have ever coached in my career.”

They brought that energy with them to start off the game as they went on an 11-2 run to prevent the Wildcats from scoring until 6:55 in the first quarter.

Freshman guard Katie Peneueta started the run with a three-pointer followed by layups from Natabou, Tillman, and senior guard Summer Menke. 

The Wildcats came charging back led by their star player, junior forward Daryn Hickok who scored eight points in the first. The Hornets led after the first quarter with 20-14.

Both teams struggled in the first quarter, with the Hornets only scoring 12 points to the Wildcats’ 13.

They both went on a drought for over two minutes until Tillman knocked down a runner, but senior guard Kori Pentzer answered back with a three for the Wildcats. 

Within the back-and-forth scoring shootout, Natabou got into early foul trouble with two quick ones, forcing Campbell to sit her.

“I’ve struggled with early fouls all season,” Natabou said. “My problem was I needed to focus, I can control the game and I can control me.”

It stayed tight throughout the second quarter as Peneueta would knock down a three to get Sac State up by five 32-27 going into halftime. 

“I think in the first half we shot ourselves in the foot, we played incredible defense and made them miss but in the first half, they had 17 offensive rebounds,” head coach Mark Campbell said. “We gave them life and we gave them hope.”

An unexpected hero arose for Weber State as senior guard Aloma Solovi would catch fire and score 16 points in the second half alone. Solovi had not scored in double digits all season but went off for 20 when it mattered most. 

As Solovi and Pentzer led the comeback for Weber State, Sac State’s offense would continue to look stagnant as they would shoot 5-14 from the field. 

Even though the Hornets struggled offensively, they kept the game close, going into the fourth quarter down by five 49-44.

The Wildcats tried to put the Hornets away as they went on a run but the Hornets continued to fight.

Sac State had several chances to get back in the game but they got a little sloppy with the ball and committed four turnovers. 

Even with Tillman leading all scorers with 23, the Hornets lost to the Wildcats for the third time this season 74-64.

“We’re gonna build a team based on our style of play,” Campbell said. “Now we have a small nucleus who’s been through the fire and now you add new pieces to the nucleus, I am really excited about the future of Sac State basketball.”