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Griffin women have breakthrough season

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After reaching the Sweet Sixteen of the NAIA national tournament and compiling a record of 22-12, the Westminster women will have a hard time topping their historical 2006-07 campaign.

"It was our best season ever," said Westminster coach JD Gustin. "We're just grateful we had such a fun year."

The women's magical season turned into an unprecedented postseason run. With a 53-39 victory over Point Loma (Calif.) in the first round of the NAIA tournament, Westminster's women can finally claim a victory in the national event. In eight seasons, they had never made the 32-team field. Despite losing in the next round to Southern Nazarene, their coach is extremely proud of the Griffins' landmark season.

"The bottom line is these kids didn't listen to what a lot of people had to say about them," Gustin said. "They didn't care. This is a special group ... They just never cease to amaze me."

The Griffins' fourth-place finish in league play was disappointing, but they made up for it by winning the program's first conference tournament game, when they defeated MSU-Northern, 68-53.

The Griffins were sparked this season by sophomore guards Shannon Evans and Elisa Leader. The duo combined to average 26 points per game and led the team in 3-pointers. At 5-foot-8, Evans was a great playmaker. She led the team in steals (84) and dished out five assists per game.

Top rebounder Janae Hirschi will return for next season. The former Alta Hawk averaged six boards per game and was the Griffins' third-leading scorer, chipping in 10 points per game.

Joining the team for next season is BYU transfer Vanessa Hutson. The two-time 5A state MVP from Brighton High School recently signed a letter of intent to play for Westminster. The point guard played one season in Provo before redshirting last year.

Gustin is also anticipating a pair of junior college transfers to give the team more size on the front line. If Westminster can land these prized recruits, next year's team should be a contender nationally.

"We have a fantastic core returning," Gustin said. "We've added a couple of very good players. Potentially, we have a chance to get back there."

E-mail: tpeterson@desnews.com