NAMPA, Idaho – The Crusaders needed a spark to get rolling Saturday afternoon, and Taylor Simmons and Kylee Schierman provided just what was needed.
The duo teamed up to lead a stingy defensive effort during an eight-minute run by the Northwest Nazarene women’s basketball team that erased an eight-point, second-half deficit en route to a 73-60 win over Montana Western at the Johnson Sports Center.
“They were in there together leading the defense and really sparked what we were doing,” NNU coach Ryan Bragdon said of Simmons and Schierman. The duo, who played the top of the Crusaders’ zone defense, helped shut down the Bulldogs and spark a 21-4 run.
That run erased Montana Western’s 48-40 lead, as NNU (4-0 overall) took a 52-50 lead after a Megan Hingston hoop-and-harm 3-point play set up by a Leslie Warwick defensive rebounds.
The Crusaders kept charging ahead, taking a 61-52 advantage on a Warwick free throw with 7:25 remaining.
The Bulldogs (4-2) tried to hang around, scoring the next five points, but a fast-break layup by Simmons put an end to the brief Montana Western rally as NNU finished strong to remain unbeaten on the season.
Montana Western threatened NNU’s unbeaten streak with a strong first-half effort that slowed the Crusader offense, which came in shooting 49.4 percent on the season.
NNU hit just 13-of-33 shots (39.4 percent) in the first half and trailed 38-32 at the break.
A first-half effort that called for the Crusaders to refocus.
“We weren’t doing the things we were doing the last few weeks,” Bragdon said. “We had a change in mentality at halftime, change in focus, change in effort.
“That got us back to playing the basketball we have been playing the last few weeks.”
Keeping NNU perfect – and their first-year coach, Bragdon, unbeaten – as the Crusaders prepare to host their Thanksgiving Classic next Friday and Saturday.
Fans who wear black to Friday’s “Black Friday” game against Colorado Christian at 2 p.m., get two tickets for the price of one. Also, the first 300 fans in the door get special edition team posters. Following the game, the NNU women will hold an autograph session for fans.
Hingston led NNU 15 points and grabbed six rebounds in the win, while Simmons added 14 points and five steals, Kayla Schumann scored 12 points and Schierman had seven points, eight rebounds, four assists, two blocked shots and two steals for the Crusaders.
Sammi Bignell led the Bulldogs – who shot just 22.6 percent (7-of-31) in the second half - with game highs of 17 points and nine rebounds.