BELLINGHAM - Hard work and smarts keep getting the Simon Fraser University women's basketball team to the next level.
The Clan have advanced to the Sweet 16 and the NCAA West Region title game, after clipping the Grand Canyon University Antelopes 76-59 on Monday in Bellingham.
Sparked by a rock-solid performance from Port Coquitlam's Kristina Collins, SFU stepped lively at the opening tip-off and carried the play until halftime.
With a 42-26 advantage at midway, the Clan just needed to maintain its stifling defence and sharp shooting to pick up the win.
"I liked our mental and physical preparation," said Collins, a fourth-year senior. "We took care of our bodies on our off day and were ready to come out and play hard. I was excited about my shooting. I wasn't thinking about it but I felt good and the shots seemed to come naturally."
Collins cashed in for a game-high 19 points and five assists, including hitting five of seven from the three-point line. She chipped in three rebounds and a pair of steals.
The Clan were good on 57 per cent of its field goals, and over 50 per cent from beyond the arc.
"Despite the lead we didn't do a good job on the boards in the first half. We tried to fix that in the second half an re-enforce what we were doing with their two top players," said head coach Bruce Langford.
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds.
The Clan established a new club record on Saturday when it collected its first NCAA national tournament playoff win, defeating No. 7-ranked Northwest Nazarene 68-57 to begin the NCAA West Regional.
"I thought we came out in the first half and moved the ball very well," said Langford. "We had good movement offensively which got us a lot of open shots. When we do that we normally have a fair number of threes and shoot at a good percentage."
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe led the squad with a double-double, scoring a game-high 23 points and grabbing 11 rebounds.
"I just wanted to come with intensity and focus," said Raincock-Ekunwe, who earlier in the week was named to the Daktronics All-Region first team. "The last couple of games my shooting percentage wasn't where I want it to be so that's something I came into the game focusing on. We've been inconsistent recently and I was proud of how the team came into this game."
Tallying 22 points in the game was Erin Chambers, while Collins led SFU with five assists and tied Raincock-Ekunwe with three steals.
A fourth-year senior, Collins led the game off with a big trey at 1:32 to kick-start a first-half surge from the No. 2-rated Clan. She finished with eight points.
The Clan play either No. 1-ranked Western Washington or No. 6-seeded Cal State Monterey Bay on Tuesday.
LUKAWESKY SHARP IN WIN OVER WWU
An unearned run was the lone blemish to another Cara Lukawesky pitching performance on the weekend.
Lukawesky's Simon Fraser University Clan women's softball team racked up a pair of wins over Western Washington University, 7-2 and 7-0, to complete another sweep in Great Northwest Athletic Conference action.
In the opener, the Port Coquitlam right-hander struck out seven in a the game and improved to 5-4 on the season.
She was relieved in the seventh by Mackenzie Bender, but was forced back on the mound after Bender was hit by a line drive.
The Clan's conference record improved to 7-0, while overall they are 11-9 and in first place in the GNAC.