Bearcats Battle Thunderwolves, but Lose Season Opener, 66-58

By Robert McKinney, Athletics Communications Director, (503) 370-6110

PUEBLO, COLO. -- The Willamette University women's basketball team put up a quality battle against Colorado State University-Pueblo in the season-opener for the Bearcats on Friday, Nov. 21 at the 2008 Al Kaly Shrine Classic, but the Thunderwolves prevailed, 66-58. CSU-Pueblo evened its record at 1-1, while Willamette started the season at 0-1.

Four Bearcats reached double figures, led by the Fillion twins from Silverton, Ore. Jenny Fillion (Sr., G, Silverton HS/Linn-Benton CC) scored a team-high 15 points, while Molly Fillion (Sr., G, Silverton HS/Linn-Benton CC) contributed 14 points and seven rebounds.

Tiana Abbley (Fr.,G, Honolulu, HI/Kamehameha School) added 11 points, including three 3-pointers, for the Bearcats. Alex Zennan (So., Guard, Sammamish, WA/Eastlake HS) scored 10 points. Nicki Clowdsley (So., C, Sammamish, WA/Skyline HS) of Willamette led all players with 11 rebounds.

Michelle Ambuul topped CSU-Pueblo's scoring chart with a game-high 21 points. She also grabbed nine rebounds. Mary Rehfeld provided the Thunderwolves with 10 points and nine boards.

The first half featured four lead changes and three ties. CSU-Pueblo led by as many as six points with a 10-4 lead at the 14:09 mark and 18-12 with 5:14 left in the half. Willamette scored the next six points to tie the game and eventually took a five-point lead at 25-20. Zennan completed the 13-2 run with a 3-pointer at the 2:21 mark.

CSU-Pueblo tallied the final six points of the half, including a pair of free throw by Michell Ambuul in the closing seconds following a defensive rebound. The Thunderwolves owned a 26-25 advantage at the intermission.

Willamette held a 33-29 lead at the 16:22 mark in the second half after Abbley sank a 3-pointer. CSU-Pueblo countered with a 12-3 run over the next three-and-a-half minutes, as the Thunderwolves claimed a 41-36 margin.

The 'Cats never regained the lead, but pulled within 46-45 with 9:35 to go. The Thunderwolves registered nine of the next 11 points for a 55-47 edge. Willamette reduced the deficit to 55-52 with 4:25 left and to 62-58 on a jumper by Abbley with 21 seconds remaining.

Ambuul was fouled immediately on the in-bounds play and hit both free throws. Rehfeld tacked on two more charity shots with one second left.

Neither team well in the first half, with Willamette at 31.4% (11 of 35) and CSU-Pueblo hitting 26.7% (8 of 30). In the second half, however, the Bearcats improved to 48.3% (14 of 29) and the Thunderwolves sank 42.9% of their field goals (12 of 28).

Willamette also connected on a solid 45.5% of its 3-pointers in the second half (5 of 11), but couldn't overcome a huge advantage for the Thunderwolves at the free throw line. CSU-Pueblo hit 23 of 33 free throws during the game, compared to 2 of 3 for the Bearcats. In the second half, the 'Wolves made 14 of 19 charity shots, while Willamette did not have a free throw attempt.

The Bearcats will play New Mexico Highlands University in the second round of the Al Kaly Shrine Classic on Saturday, Nov. 22. Game time is scheduled for 1 p.m. (MST)/12 p.m. (PST)

Colorado State-Pueblo 66
Willamette University 58
(Al Kaly Shrine Classic)
Jenny Fillion led the Bearcats with 15 points in the season-opener against CSU-Pueblo.

Jenny Fillion led the Bearcats with 15 points in the season-opener against CSU-Pueblo.