Jay Cline/for Peninsula College Peninsula’s Ituau Tuisaula works down low while guarded by a Walla Walla defender during the Pirates’ NWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal on Friday at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

Jay Cline/for Peninsula College Peninsula’s Ituau Tuisaula works down low while guarded by a Walla Walla defender during the Pirates’ NWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament Quarterfinal on Friday at Columbia Basin College in Pasco.

COLLEGE BASKETBALL: Peninsula women sail on to NWAC Final 4 with win over Walla Walla

Play in semifinals Saturday, March 18

PASCO — Two huge scoring spurts fueled by defensive dominance lifted Peninsula College to a return trip to the NWAC Final 4 after a 68-60 triumph over the Walla Walla Warriors in an NWAC Women’s Basketball Tournament quarterfinal on Friday at Columbia Basin College.

“We needed to defend better than we did [Thursday] against Linn-Benton,” head coach Alison Crumb said. “We came out today with great defensive energy, worked hard to get over Walla Walla’s screens and defended our butts off.”

The Pirates (23-4) advance to face the winner of Lane-North Idaho in the Final Four at 3 p.m. Saturday, March 18 back at Columbia Basin College.

Crumb put the accomplishment in perspective.

“It’s what you talk about at the begining of the year,” Crumb said. “It’s a huge deal to be among the best four teams, we’ve always known it to be true but it’s been an uphill climb.

“We were here to start the season [in a nonleague tournament] and we went 0-2 and it just shows how much we’ve grown and turned into a complete team. So to see that over the course of six months, that’s the best part of my job.”

The Pirates opened the season with a 61-54 loss to Walla Walla, but were withouty Millie Long and Chasity Selden.

This time around against the Warriors, Peninsula initially broke open a close game late in the first quarter, going on an 18-0 run over 8:58 of the first and second quarters to take a 29-10 advantage with 3:52 remaining before halftime.

Jennilee Donovan hit two of her three first-half treys during the run to spark the Pirates.

Walla Walla closed out the half with some strong play to trim the Pirate advantage to 31-19 at the break and continued to chip away at Peninsula’s lead in the third quarter.

The Warriors steadily whittled down the Pirates’ advantage, getting as close as 44-39 and forcing a Peninsula timeout with 1:53 in the third quarter. But the Pirates closed out the third on an 8-0 run as Donovan came out of the timeout to drain her fourth 3-pointer and Long banked in a half-court buzzer beater for a 52-39 lead after three quarters.

Donovan steps up

Donovan finished with 12 points, three steals, two assists and a block.

“She came to play, I’m so proud of her,” Crumb said. “She’s such a talented and skilled player and she was nervous yesterday, so to see her respond today less than 24 hours was great.”

Peninsula’s run ballooned to 20-0 led by Ituau Tuisaula getting loose inside for a couple of baskets as the Pirates’ lead grew to 64-39 with 5:29 left to play.

Peninsula didn’t close the game out as cleanly as it would have liked while Walla Walla (22-8) continued to fight, but could come no closer than the final margin the rest of the way.

Tuisaula led all scorers with 21 points on 9 of 18 shooting, and also picked up her second straight NWAC tourney double-double with 12 rebounds, six on the offensive glass. The NWAC North Region MVP also was in command defensively with four blocks and a pair of steals.

“Her post play is everything for us,” Crumb said. “When [opponents] are making runs we can just isolate her and we can withstand those runs because we have a dominant inside presence. There were times when we were trading 2s for 3s but we were smart to continue to feed her.

Long posted 19 points on 8 of 14 shooting, and added four steals, four boards and a block on the defensive end.

“Millie is so disruptive and hard to guard,” Crumb said. “She’s just a pest who wears people out. She stays after it all game long and other guards are tired and worn down by the end of games.”

Chasity Selden came off the bench to score 12 with four rebounds and a pair of assists.

No. 1 seeds Green River and host Columbia Basin advanced to the Final 4 on the other side of the tournament bracket.

Peninsula 68, Walla Walla 60

WW 10 9 20 21— 60

PC 18 13 21 16— 68

Walla Walla (60) — Long 19, Pentzer 13, Lovett 13, Avery 6, Cortes 3, Wood 2, Ziegler 2, Leber 2.

Peninsula (68) — Tuisaula 21, Long 19, Donovan 12, Selden 12, Kamae 2, Marini 2, Brown, Moss, Kaganak.


Sports reporter/columnist Michael Carman can be contacted at mcarman@peninsuladailynews.com.

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