One week after losing a significant third-quarter lead, the Northern Arizona women's basketball team returned the favor in their Walkup Skydome conference opener Thursday night.
Behind a game-winning shot by redshirt senior Kenna McDavis with 18 seconds remaining and a defensive stop in the final seconds, the Lumberjacks successfully completed a 17-point comeback to come out victorious, 76-75, over Weber State.
NAU (4-10 overall, 1-2 Big Sky) snapped its six-game losing streak with its largest come-from-behind victory of the season – exactly a week after seeing a 21-point lead slip away in an overtime loss at Montana. NAU's previous largest comeback was 15 points against Boise State.
"The resilience by our team tonight was a huge step in the right direction for us," said Lumberjacks head coach Loree Payne. "I reminded them that the tables turned from last week. We had an opportunity to make right what wasn't right last weekend. Even after (Larryn Brooks) hit two big threes, the team believed we'd win. Having a winning mindset is something we've been working on."
Off a baseline inbounds, McDavis' shot off the glass gave NAU the 76-75 edge, but the Lumberjacks still needed one final stop to secure their first Big Sky victory. The stop would come when McDavis cleared Kailie Quinn's three-point miss with 1.3 seconds on the clock. McDavis, who rebounded Weber State's previous miss prior to her game-winning bucket, finished with her sixth double-double of the season (20 points, 11 rebounds).
McDavis scored 11 of her points in the fourth quarter and redshirt senior Olivia Lucero totaled 10 of her team-high 21. Both players made 4-of-5 from the field in the final 10 minutes. Struggling offensively for most of the game, junior Kaleigh Paplow also hit two big shots in the fourth quarter. As a team, NAU made 12 of 17 field goals and tied its second-best all-time field goal percentage (70.6 percent) in the last period. The 29 fourth-quarter points also matched NAU's highest scoring quarter of the season.
"Kenna, Kaleigh and Liv hit some big shots in the second half," Payne said. "Great players come through in the end."
Freshmen Khiarica Rasheed and Kaprice Boston complemented NAU's three captains with solid performances as well. Rasheed notched her second career double-digit scoring game with 12 points to go with six rebounds, while Boston recorded a season-best nine points off the bench.
"We were down and we fought back, and that wasn't present last weekend," Lucero added. "We were able to push through. Kenna and Kaleigh hit shots. Kaprice to Khiarica were huge tonight and they're just freshmen."
A 9-0 Weber State run put NAU in a 16-6 hole six minutes into the game and the Wildcats held a 25-15 lead at the end of the first period after shooting 60 percent. The Weber State lead stood at 37-23 midway through the second quarter before Lucero scored all six points during a 6-0 NAU run to trim the Lumberjack deficit to eight points. However, a Wildcat three-pointer as the first-half buzzer sounded gave the visitors a 40-29 halftime lead.
NAU may have won the game in the fourth quarter, but the Lumberjacks' rally started by closing the third period strong. The Lumberjacks trailed by 17 on two occasions in the third – the last coming at the 4:29 mark at 52-35 – and were down 13 with two minutes left before finishing on a 6-0 run. Freshman Lauren Orndoff was the spark plug with a pair of baskets to help NAU climb within 54-47 heading into the fourth.
NAU methodically chopped away at the deficit before surging ahead, 63-62, with 5:28 left following back-to-back threes by McDavis and Lucero. After Weber State managed to tie it at 68-68, McDavis hit two free throws to put NAU back in front. The Wildcats responded with a three, only for McDavis to respond with a jumper, before they retook the lead with another triple.
Weber State split a trip to the line to extend its advantage to 75-72 with a minute left, but Boston scored at the rim to get the Lumberjacks within one. That set the stage for McDavis' late game heroics as NAU halted a three-game skid to Weber State over the last two years.
The Lumberjacks shot 57.6 percent in the second half, after shooting 29.7 percent in the first, to snag their first win in seven attempts when trailing at halftime this season.
The women's golf team welcomed two athletes into the program with the signing of Ashley Croft and Aleksandra Chekalina to its 2018 class during the fall signing period.
Croft is a Southend, Essex, native who will be joining the Lumberjacks after finishing up her studies at St. Bernard's High School. During her playing time overseas, Croft has already compiled an impressive resume including an England East Region Individual Runner-Up, a fifth-place finish at the English Girls U13 Championship, a second-place showing at the U16 Championships and also qualifying for the U23 tournament at St. Andrews in Scotland.
Chekalina is coming to Northern Arizona from Moscow and also brings an impressive resume.
She has a second- and third-place finish in junior tournaments in Turkey, first-place showings in Russia's Junior Tour, a first-place finish in the 2015 Russian Cup and she took first place in Russia's National Championships. Chekalina was also a part of a European Girls Team Championship.
The two signees will have the chance to contribute immediately, as the Lumberjacks graduate three seniors in Carly Akine, Sierra Bezdicek and Kaitlyn Saum after this spring season.
INDOOR TRACK AND FIELD
The men's and women's track and field teams were the unanimous No. 1 selections in the Big Sky Track & Field Preseason Coaches' Poll, per the conference's release Thursday.
Both teams collected all 12 first-place votes to sweep the No. 1 rankings with 144 points.
The Lumberjacks took home the Big Sky title in three of four conference championships last season. The women swept the indoor and outdoor championships, and the men added an indoor title of their own, their sixth straight. It was the ninth time in program history that the men and women swept the indoor championships.
Dating back to the 2016 Outdoor Conference Championships, the two teams have combined to go five of six in Big Sky Championship meets and have sent countless athletes to the NCAA National Championships to compete as individuals.
On the women's side, Sacramento State (116 points), Montana (107), Montana State (104) and Weber State (102) rounded out the top five.
For the men, Southern Utah (130), Sacramento State (114), Montana State (113) and Weber State (87) made up the top five selections.
The Lumberjacks kick off the 2018 indoor season by hosting the Friday Night Challenge in the Walkup Skydome on Friday, Jan. 12, beginning at 3 p.m.