Takeaways: UC Davis, Hawaii punch tickets to Big West championship game

Morgan Bertsch. (Wayne Tilcock/AggiePhoto.com)
Morgan Bertsch. (Wayne Tilcock/AggiePhoto.com) /

The Big West championship game is set.

ANAHEIM, CA — The Big West Tournament Semifinals wrapped up Friday afternoon, setting the stage for the championship game.

In the first matchup, the No. 1 overall seed UC Davis defeated UC Irvine, 82-50. Morgan Bertsch led the way for the Aggies with 25 points, eight rebounds and three assists. Fellow Big West First Team member Kourtney Eaton had 16 points and three assists.

In the second game, the No. 2 overall seed Hawaii defeated UC Riverside, 66-58. Tia Kanoa led the Rainbow Wahine with 19 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Leah Salanoa, an honorable mention on the all-conference team, chipped in with 11 points, three rebounds, and four assists.

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With the championship game set between UC Davis and Hawaii, here’s a few takeaways from the Semifinal matchups.

Morgan Bertsch is amazing

One of the best kept secrets in the NCAAW, UC Davis’ Morgan Bertsch displayed the type of game that shows why she’s got a future in pro basketball after college, if not the WNBA then overseas for sure. The senior forward is a handful in the post with an array of moves to keep defenders guessing. Not only that, she showed off her ability to put the ball on the floor and attack defenders off the dribble.

She earned a well-deserved Big West Player of the Year award and she will leave campus as the Aggies all-time leading scorer.

Don’t sleep on Hawaii

While UC Davis has been the best team in the Big West all season long, Hawaii finished right behind them in the standings, and was the only team to beat the Aggies during conference play. They’re led by senior point guard Tia Kanoa, a crafty floor general who has an array of shooters around her to power Hawaii’s offense. Leah Salanoa (40.6 percent), Amy Altwell (39.5 percent), and Courtney Middap (36.0 percent) are all capable of catching fire from downtown.

Although the game stayed close, Hawaii showed a ton of poise to remain focused and close UC Riverside out. They’re going to give UC Davis all they can handle.

UC Riverside is set for the future

Although Highlanders head coach John Margaritis said postgame that the future is now, UC Riverside does have quite a bit to look forward to next season. They will be losing senior forward Malou De Kergret, but they’ve got the rest of their nucleus returning.

Junior guard Jannon Otto had a breakout season, but was unavailable in the conference tournament due to injury. Junior forward Marina Ewodo also had a strong year and was named to the all-conference second team. Freshman center Daphne Gnago made the all-freshman team and has the makings of a strong low post presence, something Margaritis said the team lacked this season. This team will be back next season.

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