ELLENSBURG — Another dominant third quarter turned the tide for Central Washington Thursday night in its home opener at Ellensburg High School.
The 6-1 Wildcats were down at halftime for the fourth time this season before storming back to the top of Western Oregon 69-56. They outplayed Wolves 26-6 in the period behind 13 of Zillah grad Samantha Bowman’s game-high 25 points. She also grabbed 17 rebounds.
“I think it’s a fresh start opportunity,” said coach Randi Richardson-Thornley of her team’s success in the third quarter. “They’re pretty good at reacting and kind of taking the game and having a different approach.”
In the GNAC opener, that meant both teams finding better shots to limit transition opportunities the other way and creating a better starting point on the defensive end. Central haven’t lost a third quarter all season and they’ve outscored their opponents by an average of 24:15.
Five straight points early in the fourth quarter ended a 16-2 run to put the Wildcats 63-41 ahead. They got another big offensive night from freshman Asher Cai, who scored 21 points while scoring three 3-pointers.
Richardson-Thornley said Bowman has been a valuable mentor to Cai, showing her what it takes to play at a consistently high level. So far, they have accumulated more than 33 points combined, which combined with Sunshine Huerta’s team-best 19.1 points per game makes them two-thirds of the highest-scoring duo in Division II.
Central shot just 30% from the field in an unfamiliar home atmosphere at Ellensburg High, one of the venues chosen to replace the Nicholson Pavilion while it undergoes renovations. Richardson-Thornley said the Wildcats still have a good crowd and she’s hoping things will get even better on Saturday night when they return at 5:15 p.m. to host Saint Martin’s
WESTERN OREGON — Cali McClave 18, A. McClave 7, Arzner 6, Dawkins 3, Paaluhi-Caulk 2, Tuivai 8, Harman 6, Arnold 4, Glenn 2. Overall 21-70 7-10 56.
WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS — Samantha Bowman 25, Asher Cai 21, Huerta 8, Schow 6, Maeda 3, Johnson 3, Heitschmidt 3, Smith 0, Bush 0, Coulter-Fa’amafu 0. Overall 28-71 7-9 69.
CWU Highlights: Bowman 17 reps, 3 stls; Sunshine Huerta 4 sort., 3 pcs.
Central falls on a late shot
ELLENSBURG — An unbalanced guarded layup with less than a second remaining gave Central Washington a fourth straight loss in Thursday’s home opener at Ellensburg High School.
Western Oregon’s Qiant Myers handed the Wildcats a 69-67 loss about seven seconds after Camron McNeil hit a 3-pointer from the right wing. Central’s top scorer scored another 30 points and shot 3 of 4 over the arc, but it wasn’t quite enough for either team in the GNAC opener.
“Western Oregon are a good team and they met some great players on the course,” said coach Brandon Rinta. “We had some costly turnovers and rushed shots late that hurt us.”
The Wildcats’ seven-point halftime lead quickly disappeared, and they were three points down with ten minutes to go. Matt Poquette’s three-pointer capped a 6-0 run in return, and Morton’s 6-foot-6 senior finished the game on 15 points.
Central had 15 total turnovers and shot 46% from the field, including 8 of 14 from 3-point range. Zillah graduate Antonio Salinas hit two free throws for WOU to put the Wildcats 13-6 behind early on before rolling off a 14-5 run to take the lead.
Defending GNAC regular-season champion and pre-season favorite Saint Martin’s will visit Ellensburg as Central attempts to complete their slide at 7:30 p.m. Saturday night
WESTERN OREGON — Qiant Myers 16, Yosani Clay 15, Cameron Cranston 14, John Morrill-Keeler 10, Moore 5, Collins 4, Salinas 4, Datcher IV 1, Hughes 0, Cobb 0, Frincke 0. Overall 28-57 9-13 69.
WASHINGTON HEADQUARTERS — Camron McNeil 20, Matt Poquette 15, Brizee 9, Brown III 5, Banks 0, Brock Gilbert 10, Taylor 3, Pepper 3. Overall 26-56 7-11 67.
halftime: 37-30 CWU.
CWU Highlights: Mitch Brizee 9 reps; Matt Poquette 7 reps; Isaiah Banks 7 reps; Brock Gilbert 6 assorted
The Central trio take All-American honors
ELLENSBURG — Central Washington’s Tia Andaya, Emma Daoud-Hebert and Ashley Kaufman earned all the American honors this week after leading the Wildcats to the semifinals of the NCAA West Regional for the second straight season.
All three received honorable mentions from the American Volleyball Coaches Association teams announced Wednesday. Daoud-Hebert made the second team of the Division II Conference Commissioners Association, according to a press release published on Thursday.
The middle blocker as a sophomore finished the tournament with 160 blocks and led the entire Division II with her 1.5 blocks per set. She added 224 kills with a GNAC-best batting average of .387, including a team-high 16 kills with a batting average of .593 in Central’s NCAA tournament, upset against the No. 2 in western Washington.
Playing both outside hitters and setters for the Wildcats, Andaya recorded 2.57 kills and 5.43 assists per set to supplement 205 digs, 77 blocks and 34 service aces. Kaufman led Central with 321 kills while adding 288 digs and 36 blocks for a team that finished 17-11.