BURNABY — The Big Dance opened its arms Sunday for the Simon Fraser Clan women’s basketball team.
Despite being upset in the opening round of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference playoffs last week by the Central Washington Wildcats, the Clan’s 24-7 win-loss resume was enough to make it to the NCAA Div. 2 championship’s 64-team bracket.
The Clan has been installed as the No. 5 seed in the eight-team West Region Div. 2 championships, set to be hosted by its league rivals, No. 1-seeded Alaska Anchorage Seawolves.
SFU will open play in the sudden-elimination format on Friday (6 p.m.) when it faces the No. 4-seed UC-San Diego Tritons.
A victory for the Clan would send it to a Saturday regional semifinal between the winner of No. 1 UAA and No. 8 Hawaii Pacific.
On the other side of the draw:
No. 6 Cal State East Bay vs. No. 3 Western Washington, and No. 7 Point Loma vs. No. 2 Cal Baptist.
Simon Fraser opened the season winning 16 of its first 18 games, its only setbacks coming against Cal Baptist, a program streaming into full Div. 1 membership after next season, and Alaska Anchorage in its conference-opening game on the road.
The Clan then went 8-5 over its final 13 including the post season, with three of the losses coming against its GNAC foes which head to West Regionals ranked above them. SFU lost twice to Western Washington and on the final day of its regular season, dropped a five-point decision at home to No. 1 Anchorage.
It’s Achilles’ heel?
SFU lost twice to Central Washington, a team it finished ahead of in the standings, both at home in conference play, and in the opening round of the GNAC playoffs.
The winner of the West Region advances to the Elite 8 portion of the championships March 21-24 in Columbus, Ohio.
Simon Fraser, led by its seniors, GNAC all-time assists leader Ellen Kett and forward Meg Wilson, is making its first NCAA tournament appearance since 2014.
SFU’s first-round opponent, UC-San Diego, went 17-3 (21-5 overall) this season en route to winning the California Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) and are making their 10th trip to the NCAA D2 playoffs.
Last season, the Tritons advanced to the West Region finals before falling 72-57 to Anchorage.
The two schools have faced each other just once.
On Nov. 11 of 2012, as part of the Disney Tip-Off Classic played at the Anaheim Convention Centre, the Clan got 22 points from Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe, 15 from Erin Chambers and 10 from Marie-Line Petit, shooting 54 per cent from the field over the second half to beat the Tritons 61-58.
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