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The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

The student news site of Sacramento State University

The State Hornet

Student news without fear or favor

‘It’s do-or-die’: The women’s Big Sky Tournament tips off Saturday

The Big Sky Conference’s top stars are out in Boise
The+Sacramento+State+women%E2%80%99s+basketball+team+huddled+up+prior+to+their+game+against+Portland+State+Saturday+March+2%2C+2024.+Sac+State+is+facing+Idaho+State+in+the+first+round+of+the+womens+basketball+Big+Sky+Tournament+on+Saturday.
Scott Larson / Portland State Athletics
The Sacramento State women’s basketball team huddled up prior to their game against Portland State Saturday March 2, 2024. Sac State is facing Idaho State in the first round of the women’s basketball Big Sky Tournament on Saturday.

10 teams will compete in Boise, Idaho for the women’s basketball Big Sky Tournament, each vying to be crowned champion and earn a trip to March Madness.

The first round begins Saturday and features matchups from seeds 7-10 and seeds 3-6 on Monday. Among the teams competing this weekend are the reigning champions the Sacramento State Hornets.

The top two seeds, Eastern Washington and Northern Arizona, have yet to have their opponents determined.

 

Players to watch

Jamie Loera – Eastern Washington

Eastern Washington graduate student guard Jamie Loera has been the best player in the conference this year, taking home the Most Valuable and Defensive Player of the Year awards to show for it.

From being second in total assists in the conference to being the top rebounder and second leading scorer on her team, Loera does it all.

She made crucial plays down the stretch for Eastern Washington, including a game winning buzzer beater against Montana State on Saturday, March 2 which helped them claim the Big Sky regular season title.

The Eagles will be a tough team to knock off with the three-time Big Sky Player of the Week running the show.

Sophie Glancey – Northern Arizona

It will be a homecoming for sophomore forward Sophie Glancey as the Northern Arizona star returns to the city in which she led Timberline High School to a state title.

Glancey has been the driving force behind the Lumberjacks stellar 23-8 season, winning Big Sky Player of the Week three times and earning herself a first-team all-conference spot.

The sophomore uses her 6’2 frame to dominate in the paint, leading to averages of 15 points and seven rebounds per game.

Glancey had back-to-back 30-point performances on Feb. 8 and Feb. 10 and has scored at least 20 points in seven contests this season.

Summah Hanson – Sacramento State

After Sac State lost much of last year’s Big Sky Championship team, they needed to find their next key pieces and freshman forward Summah Hanson emerged as one of them.

Hanson stepped up as the leading scorer for a young Hornets team and scored 405 points on the season to become the program’s highest-scoring freshman in Division I history.

Hanson’s averages of 14 PPG and 8.7 rebounds per game as well as her Big Sky leading 13 double-doubles earned her the Freshman of the Year honors.

Approaching her first Big Sky Tournament appearance, Hanson said she’s looking forward to seeing the Hornets do what they are capable of.

“If we can bring the pieces together, we’ll be really exciting to watch and we’ll cause a few upsets,” Hanson said.

RELATED: Sac State forward sets single-season record in loss

#9 Weber State vs #10 Portland State

The Weber State Wildcats enter this matchup on a seven-game losing skid, while the Portland State Vikings have won two of their last four.

Portland State guard Esmeralda Morales was on a tear before her six point performance in the regular season finale. She scored at least 20 points in four straight games including a 31-point performance against Montana.

Morales’ 17 PPG leads the Big Sky Conference, her scoring ability doesn’t bode well for a Wildcats defense that has allowed at least 70 points five times over the course of their losing streak.

The Vikings struggled to find a secondary scorer on some nights and were the lowest scoring team in conference play.

Weber State’s more balanced attack led by the senior forward duo of Daryn Hickock and Jadyn Matthews will look to help the Wildcats bounce back in this spot against the Vikings defense that allows the most points per game.

Prediction: Weber State 64, Portland State 55

#7 Idaho State vs #8 Sac State

Sac State is the youngest team in the tournament but has shown that they can make some noise after they upset Northern Arizona as part of a three-game win streak in February.

Sac State has gone on a tough stretch since then consisting of four straight single digit losses but the Hornets have shown much improvement since day one of the season.

On the other side Idaho State is coming into the tournament with their own struggles having lost eight of their last nine games.

The Hornets and Bengals split the season series with both teams winning on their respective home floors.

The most recent matchup ended in a three point victory for the Hornets led by redshirt sophomore guard Benthe Versteeg and senior forward Solape Amusan.

Versteeg is one of the few returners from last season’s team tournament winning team.

“Every game is a new opportunity to get a win and go further in the tournament,” Versteeg said. “Give it your all, it’s do-or-die”

First-year head coach Aaron Kallhoff said his message is to compete and protect.

“Be a great teammate,” Kallhoff said. “A part of being a great teammate is talking on defense, working hard every possession and knowing what we’re supposed to execute”

Prediction: Sac State 60, Idaho State 56

#3 Montana vs #6 Idaho

The Montana Lady Griz are on a roll heading into the tournament with wins in six of their last seven games and four different players getting regular season award nods.

Montana’s high-powered offense is headlined by graduate student forward Carmen Gfeller, who earned herself first-team all-Big Sky honors for the second time in her career.

The Idaho Vandals have had a more up-and-down season, finishing with a 15-15 record.

Idaho’s defense limits opponents to the second least PPG but has struggled in both losses against Montana this season, allowing 79 and 64 points.

Despite the losses, Vandals junior guard Kennedy Johnson has proven to be a problem for the Lady Griz after scoring 26 points in their first meeting and 19 in the second.

Johnson could be the x-factor in this one but the Vandals will have a tough time slowing down Gfeller and keeping the conference rebound leader junior forward Dani Bartsch off of the glass.

Prediction: Montana 65, Idaho 52

#4 Montana State vs #5 Northern Colorado

The Montana State Bobcats and Northern Colorado Bears could make for the closest matchup of the first round.Both teams went 10-8 in conference play and won a game over each other.

In their first meeting, the Bears pulled out a five-point victory behind senior forward Delaynie Byrne’s 23 points and nine rebounds. One month later, Montana State held the Bears to just 40 points and the Bobcats evened up the season series with a 21-point victory.

Northern Colorado’s all-conference tandem of senior guard Hannah Simental and Byrne will need to come up big to get past Montana State’s defense which allows the third least points per game.

Prediction: Northern Colorado 62, Montana State 59

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Jahson Nahal
Jahson Nahal, Sports Staffer
(he/him) Jahson Nahal is a graduating journalism major who is in his second semester as a sports staffer for The State Hornet. Previously, he was the sports editor for The American River College Current. He hopes to work in the sports media industry one day.
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