Idaho women's basketball leaves WAC with one last championship

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comMarch 16, 2014 

Idaho coach John Newlee celebrates the Vandals' 75-67 victory over Seattle in the championship game of the WAC Tournament on Saturday in Las Vegas. The Vandals will learn their fate Monday when the NCAA Women’s Tournament field is announced (5 p.m., ESPN). It will be Idaho’s third trip to the NCAA Tournament.

DAVID BECKER — The Associated Press

— Idaho's finish to its WAC tenure could not have gone any better.

Led by league and tournament MVP Stacey Barr's 28 points, the women's basketball team beat Seattle 75-67 on Saturday to win its second consecutive WAC Tournament championship.

Idaho, which will join the Big Sky next season, will make its third trip to the NCAA Tournament next week. Before last season's berth, the Vandals had gone only once, in 1985.

"The pressure was on this year,'' said Barr, a junior guard. "My big thing going into this game was to prove to everyone that last year wasn't a fluke.''

On its way winning the WAC Tournament last season, Idaho (25-8) entered as the No. 3 seed, but coming into this year's edition, the target was firmly on the Vandals' backs as the top seed with just one league loss.

"It was different for us this year because we had that magic run last year, but this year we felt like we should do it, as opposed to we could do it,'' Idaho coach Jon Newlee said.

The Vandals and Redhawks also met in last year's championship, so Idaho knew Seattle wouldn't fade after the Vandals jumped out to an 18-4 lead. The Redhawks took a 48-46 lead with 10:31 to play, but a pair of Addie Schivo free throws with 8:34 left put Idaho ahead for good at 50-48.

"We've been in that position so many times before. We have a lot of resiliency, and we don't freak out when we're in that sort of position,'' Idaho senior forward Alyssa Charlston said.

Charlston had 17 points and six rebounds, earning all-tournament honors with 44 points and 21 rebounds in the Vandals' three wins. Barr had 78 points on the week.

The Vandals will find out where and who they play in the NCAA Tournament on Monday. Last March, Idaho had to play against No. 1-seed UConn in Storrs, Conn., as a No. 16 seed. The result was a 105-37 rout.

VANDALS' TRIBUTE

The Vandals wore black bands around the left shoulder of their jerseys in remembrance of sophomore guard Connie Ballestero's uncle, who died Thursday in Las Vegas while visiting to see Ballestero play. Ballestero had six points and four assists in 40 minutes Saturday.

GEM STATE STREAK

The state of Idaho will be represented in the NCAA Tournaments for the third straight year:

• 2014: Idaho women

• 2013: Boise State men, Idaho women

• 2012: Idaho State women

Dave Southorn: 377-6420, Twitter: @IDS_Southorn

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