Cal Baptist women top GCU in WAC but Utah Valley gets berth


LAS VEGAS — Tiena Neale scored 21 points and California Baptist, the nation’s lone undefeated Division-I women’s team, beat Grand Canyon 78-60 on Saturday in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament title game — but its Utah Valley that is headed for the NCAAs for the first time.

Top-seeded California Baptist (24-0) is in the third year of a four-year transition to D-I and ineligible for the NCAA Tournament. The Lancers will participate in the WNIT.

Third-seeded Grand Canyon (18-7) beat second-seeded Utah Valley 57-54 in the semifinals but the league predetermined that the Wolverines, second during the regular season, would be the WAC’s automatic qualifier if California Baptist won the tournament. Utah Valley was 10-4 in conference play while third-place Grand Canyon was 8-4 within a league schedule hit with pandemic-related cancellations. The teams split their regular-season series.

Sydney Palma added 15 points and Caitlyn Harper 10 points with nine rebounds while Britney Thomas grabbed 12 rebounds to go with eight points for California Baptist. Seven Lancers combined to make a WAC tournament-record 17 3-pointers, 11 in the first half when it took a 43-32 lead. The Lancers shot 39% overall but 43% from long distance (17 of 40). The 3-pointers and 49-33 rebounding advantage overcame a disparity on the free-throw line and 18 turnovers.

A bucket to open the third quarter got Grand Canyon within nine points, but California Baptist followed with a a 9-0 run and led by double figures thereafter. Its largest lead was 20.

Katie Scott scored 21 points, 17 in the fourth quarter, to lead the Antelopes, who shot just 31% and were 4 of 24 from 3-point range. Scott also had 10 rebounds for her third double-double this season.


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