Eugene — Back in December, Willamette and West Albany had a double overtime classic in Corvallis, with Freshman Maddy Warberg being the savior at the buzzer for the Wolverines. Fast forward to late January in the Wolverine Den, #1 Willamette looked to knock off the #5 West Albany Bulldogs, who want revenge for the loss back in December and a win to bolster their resume down the stretch of the season.
Victoria Nguyen kicked off this game with the first four points for Willamette, and Kayla Morris’s bucket made it a quick 6-0 Wolverines lead. A bucket from both Lyndsay Bailey and Lily Ruiz cut it to 6-4 Willamette early in the first quarter, followed up by a 7-0 West Albany run that gave the Bulldogs an 11-7 lead. West Albany closed the quarter with a 16-8 lead, holding Willamette to just two free throws after the early 6-0 deficit. The Wolverines punched back in the second with a 6-0 run that closed the gap to 16-14 early. After an Avah Pulvers trey, Willamette hit the gas to close the first half, pulling an 18-9 tear in the quarter headlined by Warberg’s ten points in the quarter, putting Willamette in front 26-25 at the half! Warberg led all scorers with 15 points, Lyndsay Bailey led the Bulldogs with 7 points at the break.
The third quarter started pretty back and forth, but a 12-2 West Albany run in the middle of the third put them back in front 41-33 behind the efforts of Bailey’s eight points. For Willamette, West Albany switched to a 3-2 zone that put pressure on the perimeter, which allowed many rebound opportunities for the Bulldogs and the shots weren’t falling for the Wolverines. Just like they did in the second, Willamette found their stroke that got them back into the party. Trailing 43-34 early in the final quarter, a 5-0 run got them within four points of the Bulldogs. West Albany got a pair of free throws from Bailey to make it 45-39, but Willamette’s persistence would pay off when the Wolverines ripped a 7-0 run to tie the game at 46 all. With around two minutes left, Jadynn Ireland hit a putback shot in the post to take the lead 48-46, with Willamette closing out West Albany 53-48 to avoid the upset.
West Albany: Once again, the Bulldogs couldn’t seal it with Willamette. Turnovers and miscommunication proved to be fatal, as those allowed the Wolverines to climb back into the game with the extra possessions. Free throws were also a critical blow late, as they could’ve sent it to overtime or even won it if they had hit their free throws more consistently. Either way, it is another game to learn from and dissect for the home stretch of the season. They proved they can hang around with the best, but they still can’t beat them…
Willamette: A nice dub for the youthful roster, they’ll need all these experiences to prep them for the best of 5A during the playoff stretch. Offensively, they are a bit trigger happy from the perimeter instead of working for closer range, but they also struggled to put away buckets on the drive. Either way, tuning up the offense is what they’ll need to focus on. Defensively, they played fine but not great, too many wide-open plays kept West Albany in this game. All in all, a good win but definitely work to do.