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Walling leads Vikings to West Regional semifinals with win over Cal Poly Pomona

WWU downs Broncos 66-61 in opening round

Western Washington University's Brooke Walling drives into the lane Friday, March 15 during the Vikings' 66-61 win over Cal Poly Pomona at the Felix Event Center in Azusa, California. Walling had 22 points, 11 rebounds and five assists to lead Western. (Photo courtesy of Josh Williams/WWU Athletics)
By Mathew Callaghan Sports Intern

Senior forward Brooke Walling had a game-high 22 points and 11 rebounds and No. 3-seeded Western Washington University women’s basketball advanced to the NCAA Division II West Regional Tournament semifinals after defeating Cal Poly Pomona, 66-61, at the Felix Event Center in Azusa, California, on Friday, March 15. 

Western is now out of the tournament’s first round after an upset loss last season. The Vikings (24-6) will now face either No. 2 Cal State San Marcos (24-6) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. on Saturday, March 16, and they are two wins away from advancing to the Elite Eight for the first time since 2022. 

Previously 7-7 all-time against Cal Poly Pomona, Western knew it had to come in ready to play.  It was a dominant performance from the Vikings’ two post players, junior forward Aspen Garrison and Walling, that sealed the win for the Vikings. 

Displaying an arsenal of up-and-under moves, Garrison showed off her footwork en route to scoring 16 points. Meanwhile, the 6-foot-3 Walling regularly pushed defenders deep into the paint, shooting 9 for 12 and adding five assists, a steal and a block. 

Off the bench, freshman guard Demi Dykstra, who averaged 2.9 points per game in the regular season, was the third-leading scorer with nine points in only 16 minutes of playing time.  

What etched the game into the win column for the Vikings was mostly due to the multiple stops they managed to get in the fourth quarter. With 1:25 left in the game and Western up by five, Vikings sophomore guard Mason Oberg and junior guard Riley Dykstra got consecutive steals as the Broncos looked to make it a one-possession game.  

After Oberg was fouled and made one free throw, Walling swatted away a Broncos layup on the other end with only 19 seconds left. Cal Poly Pomona junior guard Kalaya Buggs was fouled on a 3-point attempt, made two free throws — missing the last — but managed to regain possession with only seven seconds left.  

Now a two-possession game, 65-61, Cal Poly needed to get a shot up quickly if they wanted even the slimmest chance of winning. Freshman forward Sydney Nelson caught the ball at the low block and was forced to shoot over Walling’s outstretched hands — missing the rim entirely.  

With two-tenths of a second left, senior guard Stephanie Peterson was fouled out of frustration as the game ended in the Vikings’ favor. 

Western Washington University players celebrate a bucket during the Vikings’ win. (Photo courtesy of Josh Williams/WWU Athletics)

Four players on Cal Poly Pomona scored at least 12 points. Buggs led the team with 17 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists and a game-high 5 steals on 4-for-12 shooting. Junior forward Jeanette Fine put up 13 points and 8 rebounds in 18 minutes on the court.  

Behind Fine was senior guard Breanne Ha, who owns the Cal Poly Pomona record for single-season 3-pointers made, shot 2-for-9 from distance and had 12 points. Nelson, the Broncos’ regular season scoring leader (15.2 points per game), played all 40 minutes and had 12 points. 

The game was a back-and-forth battle, lingering within eight points for much of the contest. Neither team shot well from 3-point range, as Western shot 33.3% and Cal Poly shot 27.8% from deep. Cal Poly made 38.9% of their total shots, while Western connected on 41.8% of their attempts.  

The Vikings showed patience in their hunt for the right shot — never hesitating to swing the ball to someone who had a better look. Western had 16 assists as a team compared to Cal Poly’s six. 

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