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VALLEY / VENTURA COUNTY SPORTS

Northridge Makes Conference Call, 70-62

Women's basketball: Matadors beat Idaho State, show Big Sky they won't give up title easily.

March 10, 2000|VINCE KOWALICK | TIMES STAFF WRITER

MISSOULA, Mont. — Cal State Northridge is still the team to beat for the Big Sky Conference women's basketball championship.

The Matadors opened defense of their conference title with a 70-62 victory over Idaho State before 3,245 in a Big Sky tournament semifinal Thursday night at the Adams Center.

Neda Milic scored 17 points and Lynda Amari had 15. ReShawnda Richardson made six free throws in the final 27 seconds, as the Matadors held off several second-half runs by Idaho State.

Northridge (18-9) will play Montana, a 70-60 winner over Weber State, for the tournament title Saturday at 1 p.m. PST.

It also provided evidence to the contrary for those who considered the Matadors history after the midseason departure of point guard Edniesha Curry.

Curry, Northridge's career three-point leader, quit after a disagreement with coaches following a 60-46 loss at Montana on Jan. 21. Last season, Curry was selected conference most valuable player as Northridge rolled to its first Big Sky title.

This season, matters haven't gone as smoothly.

"The tougher it is, that just makes it all the more sweeter," Coach Frozena Jerro of Northridge said. "We've all worked so hard to get here."

Northridge won for the seventh time in 11 games without Curry. The Matadors were tabbed by coaches and media to repeat as Big Sky champion but Curry's departure quickly raised doubts.

Northridge finished second in the conference standings, two games behind Montana.

But overcoming adversity is part of playing for Northridge, Milic said.

"Ever since I've been at Northridge, things have been happening," Milic said. "We're fighters. We're used to rebounding. Like Coach says, it makes it all the more sweeter."

Milic led a solid team effort. Northridge moved ahead, 22-21, in the first half on a basket by LaShaunda Fowler and never again trailed.

Idaho State (14-15) trailed, 30-26, at halftime and challenged until the final buzzer. The Bengals fell behind by 10 points in the second half, but pulled to within three on three occasions.

Ashley Toner's basket pulled Idaho State to within 62-61 with 1:15 to play. But Keisha Harris, who scored 11 points for Northridge, answered by swishing a jump shot from the lane with 46 seconds to play.

From there, Richardson was flawless from the free-throw line.

"This was a huge win for us," Jerro said. "An awesome effort in the second half to come out and win."

Pride played a major role, said Milic, who led Northridge with seven assists.

So did will.

"I just wanted this really bad," Milic said.

Harris, who followed her basket in the final minute by blocking a shot by Chris Urbanksi, was equally hungry.

"We wanted the game and we got it," Harris said. "On offense, we just came down and there was nobody who could guard us."

Mandi Carver scored 18 points for Idaho State. Toner added 13 points and Angela Munger had 11.

But defense--or lack of--determined the Bengals' fate.

"I felt at times we did an OK job on Milic, but they have a lot of other weapons," Coach Ardie McInelly said. "She wasn't our only concern. Lynda Amari is a very nice player, one of the best physical players in our league."

Northridge defeated Montana, 65-49, three weeks ago at Northridge. In that game, Milic, a senior from Belgrade, Serbia, scored 19 points and Amari, a senior from France who attended Ventura College, had 17.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

BIG SKY WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT

Today's Scores

CS Northridge 70, Idaho State 62

Montana 70, Weber 60

Saturday's final

CS Northridge vs.

Montana, 1 p.m.

*

BIG SKY MEN'S TOURNAMENT

Wednesday's Scores

CS Northridge 73, Weber State 68

Northern Arizona 77, Portland State 75

Today's Games

Eastern Washington vs.

Northern Arizona, 6 p.m.

CS Northridge vs.

Montana, 8:30 p.m.

(Radio: KCSN-FM 88.5)

Saturday's final

At 8:30 p.m.

* Andre Larry and Northridge men look to knock off top-seeded Montana. Page 15

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