MOSES LAKE — Big Bend women’s basketball sat in its locker room following a 80-76 loss to Yakima Valley.
The team was 3-5 in the NWAC East, solidly out of the playoff picture. Head coach Preston Wilks stated it plainly — finish the second half 5-3 for a play-in game or 6-2 for a tournament berth.
The Vikings were able to rally around each other, finish the regular season 6-2 and earn a trip to the NWAC Tournament for the first time since 2003.
“The girls are super upbeat and they know how special it is to be able to be playing in March and practicing in March,” Wilks said. “They’ve had great focus, we’ve had great practices, great energy. The girls have done whatever we’ve asked them to do this week — just super focused and super upbeat.
“From my perspective, watching our scrimmage and watching our shooting, their seems to be a little extra level of confidence.”
Big Bend drew No. 1 seed Grays Harbor in the first round of the tournament Thursday, 6 p.m., at Everett Community College.
The Chokers won the West Region and posted a record of 25-2 overall. Sophomore guard Alexia Thrower led the entire NWAC in scoring with 26 points per game and second in rebounding with 11.5 per game.
“We actually saw them in a tournament back in December up in Skagit and they just figure out a way to win,” Wilks said. “They just figure out a way to win. You look at their scores and you’re not like, wow, blown away by their scores, but like I told the girls, I said you’ve got to be careful because there’s something about knowing how to win and I think that’s what really stands out as a characteristic of that team and kind of the quality of that team.
“They just figure out a way to get it done at the end of the game.”
The NWAC Tournament selection show referred to the Vikings’ group of four — Big Bend, Grays Harbor, Everett and Clackamas — as the “shootout region.”
Big Bend is the No. 1 3-point shooting team with 249 made from distance; Clackamas is right behind with 238. Grays Harbor (34) and Everett (33.6) are also second and third, respectively, in 3-point percentage.
What’s more, the Vikings have a built-in comfort level with the Everett rims.
Wilks made it a point to schedule a crossover tournament in Everett with the hope of some familiarity should Big Bend play into March. The Vikings went 2-1 at the Everett Classic Tournament in early December, scoring an average of 83 points.
“The last few years I have gotten into a tournament in Everett with the sole purpose of, ‘Hey, if we could get comfortable in that environment then if we make the dance we’ll be a leg up on maybe our competition because we’ve played two or three games there,’” he said. “So, the best thing we like about it is it’s a friendly environment to us.
“We’re giddy heading to Everett. We’re super excited about this.”
Most Valuable Player
Cierra Jo McKeown, SO, Walla Walla
Alexis Castro, FR, Columbia Basin
Cierra Devorak, SO, North Idaho
Jade Skidmore, SO, Walla Walla
Ashlynn Burgess, FR, Wenatchee Valley
Kamri Von Oelhoffen, FR, Yakima Valley
Sunnie Martinez, SO, Big Bend
Saben Keo, SO, Columbia Basin
Miranda Johnson, FR, Big Bend
Sara Ramirez, FR, Columbia Basin
Jessica Olson, FR, Spokane
Freshman of the Year
Kamri Von Oelhoffen, Yakima Valley
Defensive Players of the Year
Sabin Keo, SO, Columbia Basin
Hailey Garrity, SO, Big Bend
Alexis Castro, FR, Columbia Basin
Ronnie Harris, SO, North Idaho
Kortney Hutchison, SO, Walla Walla
Carly Davis, SO, Yakima Valley
Coach of the Year
Bobbi Hazeltine, Walla Walla