BOISE — Though Montana lost in the first round and Montana State has yet to tip off in the quarterfinal round, at least two Montanans will be playing in the semifinals of the Big Sky Conference women’s basketball tournament at Century Link Arena.
Fairfield natives Lizzy and Natalie Klinker played a key role in top-seeded Idaho’s 90-73 win over eighth-seeded Northern Arizona in Tuesday’s quarterfinal. The Klinker sisters combined for 18 points and 23 rebounds in the lopsided win.
“They bring so much energy and heart and physicality — all things that are unique,” said Idaho coach Jon Newlee. “Their motors run so high all the time that sometimes you need them to bring it down a little bit. They just have so much energy.”
The sisters each finished with nine points and four offensive rebounds. Lizzy added nine defensive boards, while Natalie had six on that end. Idaho out-rebounded NAU 48-37 in the game and limited the Lumberjacks, who are coached by Havre native Loree Payne, to just five offensive rebounds.
“(The Klinkers are) great rebounders, because they have a great nose for the ball, but they’re physically unafraid. They’re very athletic, you know?” said Newlee. “They can get up, but more importantly they want that ball. When that ball goes up, they’re like a dog after a bone. They just go get it, and love what they bring for us energy-wise. It’s been great having both of them at the same time.”
The Klinkers play complementary roles to Idaho’s high-scoring duo of Taylor Pierce and Mikayla Ferenz. Pierce tied a career-high with 31 points Tuesday, making 6 of 13 3-point attempts. Ferenze had 24 on 9-of-15 shooting.
Regan Schenck had 24 points to lead Northern Arizona (13-18), which saw its Big Sky Conference season end with the loss.
Idaho (20-10) will now play in Wednesday’s semifinal round, where the Vandals will meet either Portland State or Montana State. Tipoff for Wednesday’s game is 5:30 p.m.