Record-setting regular season aside, Eastern Washington women set sights on Big Sky tourney, NCAA berth

Mar. 5—The Eastern Washington women played championship-level basketball the final 10 games of the regular season — and all were wins.

It's been a record-setting season for EWU.

The Eagles (26-5) secured their first Big Sky title since 2010 and head to the conference tournament eyeing what they fell short of last year — a title and berth to the NCAA Tournament, their first since 1987.

The Big Sky Tournament begins Saturday at Idaho Central Arena in Boise. In openers, No. 9 Weber State (7-24) meets No. 10 Portland State (8-22) and No. 7 Idaho State (11-18) takes on No. 8 Sacramento State (5-24).

Top-seeded EWU plays Sunday against the Weber State/Portland State winner at 11 a.m. , and No. 2 Northern Arizona (23-8) faces the Idaho State/Sacramento State winner.

The Sunday winners have Monday off while No. 4 Montana State (16-15) goes against No. 5 Northern Colorado (15-14) and No. 3 Montana (21-8) plays No. 5 Idaho (15-15) at 1:30 p.m. Should EWU win, it would play the Montana State/Northern Colorado winner on Tuesday at 11 a.m.

The championship game is March 13.

The Eagles are looking forward to getting some redemption. But there's work to be done to get to the title game.

"When you're No. 1, you get everybody's best every single night, so focusing on that one game, that one team, not looking ahead and taking it day by day," EWU senior Milly Knowles said. "It took me six years to get here. I'm very excited and proud of this team."

EWU senior Jamie Loera, who has been in the middle of the Eagles' heroics, said the plan is simple.

"Be us, do what we do. That's how we got to where we are," said Loera, who was named Big Sky Player of the Week for the third time this season on Tuesday after leading the Eagles to three wins. "We made a couple of adjustments in every scout, but as long as we are who we are, with the mindset, with the intangibles, how hard we work, how focused we are, we're going to be just fine."

EWU takes essentially the same team back to Boise that went last year.

"The experience and chemistry has increased," EWU coach Joddie Gleason said. "Everybody loves each other and plays for each other. The amount of time spent together and recognizing the value in that has turned us into a special group."