LEWISTON - The Lewis-Clark State College Women’s Basketball team looks to continue its hold on the College of Idaho when the two start their best-of-3 series on Thursday, February 18 to determine the Cascade Collegiate Conference Tournament champion and an automatic berth to the NAIA national tournament. Tipoff is set for 5:00pm at the LC Activity Center.
THE WARRIORS (10-5 overall) – No. 1 seed
The postseason is a familiar place for coach Brian Orr and the Warrior program. This is the 14th time in his 20 seasons the team is playing in the conference championship. His clubs have qualified for the NAIA national tournament in all but two years.
The Warriors, ranked No. 24 in the NAIA, are the heavy favorite to win the CCC title in their first year in the conference. LC State defeated College of Idaho 75-39 and 76-57 during the regular season behind its stingy zone defense. The Warriors held the Coyotes to less than 30 percent shooting accuracy from the field in both games.
As a team, the Warriors are holding the opposition to 38.7 percent field goal accuracy and 35.9 percent from the 3-point line. Overall, the Warriors have held teams to an average of 65.5 points per game this season. They also are among the national leaders in assist-to-turnover ratio as they force an average of 17.3 turnovers a game.
A key to the series for LC State, according to Orr, will be rebounding. Although the Warriors did outrebound the Coyotes in both regular-season contests, they did give up 30 offensive rebounds total in the two contests.
The Warriors enter the playoffs battle tested as four of its final six games were against NCAA Division II opponent Montana State-Billings. The last two meetings came down to the final minutes. LC won 67-61 but then lost its finale in overtime on a 3-point shot at the buzzer 82-81.
LC has five players averaging close to 8.0 points per game or better, led by its four seniors. Kiara Burlage is enjoying an outstanding season and leads the team at 16.9 points and 6.5 rebounds per outing. Among the regulars, she also leads the team in field goal percentage (48.8 percent) and 3-point percentage (38.1). In her last outing, Burlage became the 21st player in program history to score 1,000 points in her career.
Fellow seniors Abbie Johnson and Jansen Edmiston are averaging 12.4 and 11.5 points, respectively. They are also second and third on the team in rebounding at 5.9 and 4.2 per game, respectively. Johnson is shooting 48.5 percent from the field. Edmiston is second on the team in 3-pointers made with 23.
Guard Peyton Souvenir is at 8.7 points per game and leads the team in both assists (64) and steals (34). Junior Abby Farmer is at 7.9 points and leads the club with 25 3-pointers.
Those five starters have been instrumental in helping the team’s transition offense, one of the biggest strengths of the Warriors.
Three of LC State’s five losses were to NCAA Division II schools, while the remaining two losses were to former Frontier Conference rival Carroll College, which is currently ranked No. 6 in the NAIA. LC also beat the Saints once this season.
THE YOTES (4-12 overall) – No. 2 seed
Like LC, the Coyotes have been regulars in postseason play. The Yotes have qualified for the conference tournament 22 consecutive seasons and won the CCC titles in 2010 and 2012. It has advanced to the semifinals 15 times.
At the NAIA Division II level, the Yotes made the national tournament eight times and advanced to the semifinals in two of the last four seasons. The NAIA changed its basketball format this season and all teams are now classified as Division I.
Although it did lose twice during the regular season to the Warriors, College of Idaho’s record is a bit misleading. Four of its losses were to NCAA Division I programs and another two came against NCAA Division II schools.
The Yotes have struggled on the road this season as they are just 1-9 away from home and the club has lost four straight games.
Shooting woes have hurt the team at times. The Coyotes are shooting just 31.3 percent from the field and 27.8 percent from the 3-point line. The team also has committed 86 more turnovers than it has forced.
Senior forward Kiersten Rasmussen leads the team in scoring at 7.9 points per game and is second in rebounds at 5.8. She had a team-best 24 blocked shots and is the only regular shooting above 40 percent on the season at 42.6 percent.
Sophomore Allie Cannon is at 7.1 points and has a team-best 21 steals. Sophomore guard Lexi Mitchell is at 6.9 points and holds a team-best 5.9 rebounds per outing.
Cascade Collegiate Conference protocols do not allow fans to attend conference events or tournaments. Fans can watch the games on livestream by visiting www.lcwarriors.com/watch. The cost to watch a game is $9.99 because it’s the conference tournament.
Game 2 of the series will be held at 2:00pm PST, on Sunday in Caldwell. If the two split the first two games, a coin flip will be held to determine the host team for Game 3, which will be played on February 26.
The NAIA will announce the 48 teams for the national tournament and opening-round pairings and sites on March 4.