‘March is a whole different animal’: Sac State women’s basketball defeats Idaho in Big Sky tournament

The Hornets move to the semifinals, face Portland State Tuesday


Lucas Monteros

FILE: Sophomore guard Katie Peneueta shoots a three-pointer against Northern Arizona at The Nest Thursday Feb. 9, 2023. After Monday’s win, the Hornets need one more to go to their first ever Big Sky Championship game in school history.

Myla Booth

The Sacramento State women’s basketball team cheered with relief on their faces as they put their sticker on the board for the next round of the Big Sky Tournament after defeating the University of Idaho 73-58 Monday. 

The Hornets came into this first round ready to give their all to advance in the Big Sky tournament, and they did just that. 

“We live to fight another day,” Sac State head coach Mark Campbell said. “Super proud of this group and what they have accomplished this season and what they continue to accomplish.” 

Sac State came into the first quarter playing strong offensively. The Hornets applied consistent pressure on Idaho, smothering the Vandals defensively, making it hard for them to even get points on the scoreboard. 

The Hornets were on a 9-0 run for the next four and a half minutes, taking a seven-point lead and ending the first quarter 17-10. 

Idaho quickly put up a layup to start off the second quarter, fighting to close that lead gap between the Hornets.

Senior guard Kahlaijah Dean was trying to look for a screen to fight off the Vandals’  defensive pressure. Until she found senior guard Jordan Olivares open as she made a three-point shot for the Hornets. 

“For the most part, I just keep my composure and trust what my coach says,” Dean said. “Just read the play whatever they give me, just take it and pass to my open teammates.” 

Dean finished today’s game tied with junior center Isnelle Natabou for most points scored with 22. Dean was hustling the whole game offensively as she even helped assist her teammates for open shots.

“We are going to ride those two till the wheels fall off,” Campbell said, referring to Dean and Natabou. 

The Hornets took a 10-point lead ending the second quarter, 38-28. 

The Vandals found their momentum in the third quarter and were moving at a pace the Hornets couldn’t match. 

Sac State was in a scoring drought for two minutes until Dean made a clean jumper. The Hornets took a close lead of four points into the final quarter, 48-44. 

Sac State knew they had to win this after all the hard work and everything they put up until this exact moment. 

“I was excited the whole time. I have lots of trust in our team that we are able to execute what we have been preparing for,” Natabou said. “We have been waiting for this moment the entire season.” 

Natabou missed a layup but fought for her own rebound till she made the basket while getting fouled. She got a free throw and completed the three-point play. 

Sac State never looked back. The Hornets’ offense was unstoppable using screens, open looks and fighting for their rebounds. 

The Sac State team did what they came to do, beating Idaho, 73-58. 

“We just gotta keep kicking down new doors. This was kind of the next step,” Campbell said. “March is a whole different animal — March is a whole different beast — and this was a big breakthrough for the program.” 

The Hornets will be taking on Portland State in the semifinals in the Big Sky Tournament on Tuesday, March 7 at 1:30 p.m. Sac State has never appeared in a Big Sky Championship game.