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The Orion

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Chico State's independent student newspaper

The Orion

Chico State women’s basketball earns first NCAA tournament in 10 years

The Wildcats have been one of the top teams in the western region, being ranked as high as No. 6 during the season
Senior Zhane Duckett warms up her jump shot before practice. Photo by Nathan Chiochios on March 12.

After a second-place finish in the CCAA, the Wildcats earned the fifth seed in the NCAA Division-II West Regional Tournament in head coach Brian Fogel’s fifth appearance with Chico State.

The Wildcats have been one of the top teams in the western region, being ranked as high as No. 6 during the season. After finishing their first 20-win season since 2013, the team looks to cap off an already stellar season with the program’s first NCAA title.

The team finished second in their conference, losing in the final seconds against Cal State San Marcos, which grad student Brandy Huffhines says only put a “chip on their shoulders” coming into the tournament.

“It leaves a very, very sour taste in your mouth,” Huffhines said. “It gives us more of a reason that we want to go in, play hard, work our butts off.”

Graduate student Brandy Huffhines shooting around before practice. Taken by Nathan Chiochios on March 12.

Coach Fogel said the game was a hard-fought battle, but that it shows his appreciation for the team and their character, having worked since September to be able to compete in the tournament.

His focus is now on their opponent, Montana State Billings, who nearly swept the Great Northwest Athletic League’s awards this season. The team features Player of the Year Kola Bad Bear and Defensive Player of the Year Kortney Nelson, but Fogel said they aren’t going to change anything about their play style. 

“We believe in our brand, and we know our brand works,” he said. 

Head Coach Brian Fogel, middle; black shirt, getting the team ready before practice. Taken by Nathan Chiochios on March 12.

Though most of the team has not yet experienced the tournament, they do have one veteran, senior Zhane Duckett, who played with Cal State East Bay in the West Regional in 2022 before transferring to Chico State. 

She shared her experiences with the team from the selection committee to the games. Her main piece of advice for the newcomers: “Leave it all out on the floor.”

“Every team we play from now on is going to be like the CCAA championship game,” Duckett said. “We don’t have a lot of room for slip-ups, and everyone has to be on the same page.”

Having competed in the tournament before, Duckett feels there is unfinished business, especially after how the season ended last year. But, more importantly, she is excited to be able to compete for a title in her final year.

The Wildcats are set to face the Yellowjackets on Friday at 7:30 p.m., which will be hosted at the Felix Events Center on the Azusa Pacific University campus. The game can be streamed here.

For information about all Chico State Athletics, visit the Wildcat homepage.

Nathan Chiochios can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Contributor
Nathan Chiochios
Nathan Chiochios, Sports Editor
Nathan Chiochios is in his third year at Chico State as a journalism (news) major. He is from Mountain View, a town in the San Francisco Bay Area. It is his second semester on The Orion, and his first semester as sports editor, and he looks forward to growing his journalism and writing skills. In his free time, he spends most of his time skateboarding and hanging out with friends and family.

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