MSU Billings women fall to Cal State San Marcos in thriller at D-II West Region championship

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Posted at 10:01 PM, Mar 18, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-19 13:17:18-04

AZUSA, Calif. — Montana State Billings' run at the NCAA Division II West Region women's basketball championship came to an end Monday night.

Ava Ranson's two free throws with four seconds left lifted Cal State San Marcos to a 73-71 victory over the Yellowjackets at the Felix Event Center to secure a berth in the D-II Elite Eight in St. Joseph, Missouri.

The Yellowjackets were trying to advance to the Elite Eight for the third time in program history and the first time since 2018.

"I'm just so proud of our team," MSUB coach Kevin Woodin stated in a press release. "We battled hard to the end. We were down by ten at one point in the fourth quarter, but we battled back to take the lead. Just some plays that could have gone either way, and they just made one more than us. It was a great game tonight."

Handcuffed by foul trouble for much of the game, MSU Billings trailed 60-50 with 9:41 remaining in the fourth quarter. But the Jackets went on a 19-8 run to take a 69-68 lead following a Kola Bad Bear layup with 45 seconds left.

Tournament MVP Jordan Vasquez made a driving layup and was fouled with 35 seconds remaining, and made the subsequent free throw to give San Marcos a 71-69 lead.

MSUB countered with another Bad Bear layup to tie it on its next possession, but San Marcos took the lead for the final time when Ranson, a former teammate of Bad Bear's at Division I Montana State, was fouled by Dyauni Boyce at the hoop and made both free throws.

A final attempt by Boyce to tie the game following an MSUB time out missed before the buzzer, and the Yellowjackets' season came to an end with a 28-7 record.

Boyce finished with 27 points on 9-of-13 shooting with five rebounds in 39 minutes. Boyce picked up much of the slack in the post as Bad Bear sat with foul trouble. Bad Bear was whistled for her third foul at the 3:46 mark of the second quarter and incurred her fourth foul at 6:23 of the third.

Bad Bear finished with 11 points on 4-of-12 shooting with six rebounds in 24 minutes. Kortney Nelson had 19 points; she and Boyce each made 7 of 9 from the free throw line.

Vasquez had 19 points for Cal State San Marcos while teammate Charity Gallegos scored a team-high 22. Truitt Reilly finished with 12 points and eight rebounds, and also played strong interior defense. Ranson finished with 11 points.

Montana State Billings ended the season with the most single-season wins in program history, its most Great Northwest Athletic Conference victories (16) and its deepest NCAA tournament run since 2018.

"This is a dream team for me," Woodin said. "They aren't just talented on the court, but are incredible academically as well. They have one of the highest team GPAs in the country, and are also incredibly close off the court.

"It's difficult to say goodbye when you put so much effort into it. I feel bad for them ending up a little short, but I'm also so proud of them for everything we have been able to accomplish together."