Toss out an official’s inadvertent whistle and it’s possible the story on Eastern Washington University’s women’s basketball game last Saturday against the University of Washington in Seattle might have been about more postseason.
But that isn’t the case so the focus is on a post mortem following the Eagles’ 65-60 double-overtime loss to the Huskies in the first round of the Women’s National Invitation Tournament at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The loss denied Eastern its first national postseason tournament win in school history and the first 20-win season since 1984-85. The Eagles finish the 2012-13 campaign at 19-13 overall.
“There’s 2.5 seconds left, we got an offensive rebound in front of the rim and the referee blows the whistle and we all stop,” Eastern head coach Wendy Schuller said. “What did you blow the whistle for?” she asked the official. “‘Inadvertent whistle, my bad.’”
As it turned out the Eagles did get a baseline out of bounds play. On a pass from Hayley Hodgins, Carrie Ojeda, who, in the midst of what Schuller called “a lot of contact,” missed one final attempt with a second left in the first extra period.
That brought a second overtime and Eastern faded, getting outscored 12-7. But a shaky 20 minutes in the first half was likely more of a factor than a few ticks of the clock in the end.
“A little stretch of eight minutes, maybe less, we just really didn’t do a good job taking care of the ball,” Schuller said.
Washington struck first in the second OT with a three from Kristi Kingma, which was followed a couple minutes later with another three for UW’s All-Pac 12 team point guard Jazmine Davis. But Hodgins answered every time, hitting three field goals in the overtime period to keep Eastern in the game.
Washington converted a layup that gave them a 63-60 lead with 23 seconds remaining, but this time, Hodgins’ 3-point attempt from the corner sailed long. The Huskies snatched up the rebound and went on to make two free throws with eight seconds remaining to seal the victory.
Eastern dug themselves into an 8-point hole in the first half against their Pac-12 foes largely on their inability to take care of the ball. Washington scored nearly half of its points off turnovers.
If the Eagles failed in their ability to handle the ball, they excelled on defending the 3-point shot.
Hodgins led the Eagles with 20 points, 17 in the second half and overtime periods. Huerta had 15 while Ashenfelter recorded a career-high 13. Ojeda concluded her Eastern career with eight points and 10 rebounds.
Eastern shot the ball better than Washington finishing at 35.8 percent from the floor, compared to 31.8 percent for UW. The Huskies, who average 8.1 3-pointers per game, were held to just 5-of-36 from long range.
UW (21-11) had a trio of players in double figures, led by Davis, who finished with a game-high 22 points.
“We knew going in UW was going to shoot a lot of 3s but I thought we forced them to shoot some contested and quick 3s,” Schuller said. “We pushed them to a tough percentage,” just shy of 14 percent.
After out-scoring the Huskies, 26-18 in the second half and holding UW to 0 of 15 shooting from beyond the arc, Eastern scratched out a 49-47 lead with 1:09 remaining in regulation.
Davis was able to convert a layup to knot the score at 49 and Eastern’s final shot at the lead came when Aubrey Ashenfelter missed a jumper with 3 seconds to go. That sent Eastern to its second straight overtime contest.
Eastern worked to get a 53-51 lead in overtime on a Kylie Huerta 3-pointer with 2 minutes, 50 seconds to go in the first overtime. The Huskies’ Kingma hit a jumper to tie it at 53-53 with 1:24 to go. The Eagles failed on their next two tries but with solid offensive rebounding, maintained possession with their chance to win it in the final seconds of the first overtime before the whacky whistle entered the fray.
“The No. 1 thing we expressed to the team when we went into the locker room tonight was just how proud we were of them,” Schuller said, concluding her 12th season as EWU head coach. “This is a team that has battled and fought all year, and I didn’t expect anything less from us tonight.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.