BILLINGS, Mont. – (Box Score) The third of four tickets to the 2017 NAIA Division I Women's Basketball National Championship, presented by Wells Fargo, semifinals has been punched, as No. 1 Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) downed No. 2 Westmont (Calif.), 72-67, Saturday night at Rimrock Auto Arena at MetraPark.
Lewis-Clark State is into the semifinals for only the second time in program history – the first time coming in 2001. The Warriors, who are now 34-1 on the year and the only remaining No. 1 seed in the field, play the winner of No. 8 William Woods (Mo.) and No. 2 Vanguard (Calif.) Monday at 8 p.m. PDT.
"We knew that someone on our team had to step-up for us, and it was Caelyn Orlandi did," said Lewis-Clark State Head Coach Brian Orr. "I thought we defended extremely well. I thought we got the stops when we needed them."
For the third-straight game at this year's tournament, Frontier Conference Player of the Year Caelyn Orlandi proved why she is one of the top guards in the country. The senior, who entered the game averaging 20.5 points per game and had 11 assists through the first two rounds, posted 25 points on 9-of-16 shooting from the field, including a 4-for-6 mark from long range. The effort gives Orlandi 26 double-digit scoring games this season. She also tied a season-high with 10 assists – good for her third double-double of the year.
A slight edge in shooting gave Lewis-Clark State (Idaho) the lead, 18-13, at the conclusion of the initial period. An Orlandi 3-pointer from the wing sparked an 8-0 run late in the frame to create separation for the Warriors.
Lewis-Clark State opened the second quarter with an 8-2 mini-run, pushing its advantage to 26-15 on a pair of Hailey Turner free throws. The two sides traded baskets over the course of the next two minutes, before a 10-2 run by Westmont cut the Warriors' lead to 30-27 with 35 seconds left in the opening 20 minutes. Kayla Sato and Aysia Shellmire keyed the run for Westmont, as the two combined for eight points.
Caelyn Orlandi pushed the Lewis-Clark State lead back to five, 32-27, with a jumper before the halftime buzzer sounded.
Lewis-Clark State's defense was the headline in the opening 20 minutes, as the Warriors held Westmont to 31.0 percent (9-of-29) shooting from the field, including only a 2-for-12 effort from beyond the arc.
Back-to-back buckets by Sato and Cora Chan to start the third quarter knotted the score at 32 and started a second half that saw the lead either tied or changed 12 times.
Westmont claimed its first lead, 35-34, since the 4:23 mark of the opening quarter on one Sato's three 3-pointers on the night. Westmont pushed the advantage to as many as five, however, could never truly break away from Lewis-Clark State.
The game continued to teeter-totter until midway through the fourth quarter when back-to-back layups by Jossilyn Blackman sparked a 7-0 run to give Lewis-Clark State a 63-56 lead with just over three minutes left.
Westmont cut the led to three, 65-62, but could get no closer as Lewis-Clark State converted 7-of-8 free throw down the stretch.
Lewis-Clark State, which entered the game as the top field goal and 3-point field goal percentage defense through two games at this year's championship, held Westmont under 40 percent shooting and forced 11 Warrior turnovers.
Blackman was key for Lewis-Clark State off the bench, finishing the night with 17 points and five rebounds.
Sato had a career night on offense despite the loss. The sophomore tallied a career-high 31 points, while also grabbing five rebounds and recording two assists. She shot 10-of-20 from the field and was a perfect 8-for-8 at the foul line.
With the loss, Westmont ends the year with a 29-5 record and falls to 14-11 all-time at the national championship.