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Westminster basketball: No. 3 Griffin women clinch top seed, sweep No. 11 MSU-Northern

Shelby Ellsworth (center) holds the ball. She scored 14 points to lead Westminster in a 59-44 win over No. 11 Montana State-Northern on Saturday night in the Behnken Field House.
Shelby Ellsworth (center) holds the ball. She scored 14 points to lead Westminster in a 59-44 win over No. 11 Montana State-Northern on Saturday night in the Behnken Field House.
Bob McLellan

The No. 3 Westminster women’s basketball team clinched at least a share of a seventh-straight Frontier Conference championship by taking a 59-44 win over No. 11 Montana State-Northern on Saturday night in the Behnken Field House.

Westminster (21-2, 11-1 Frontier) secured the top seed at the upcoming Frontier Conference Tournament with the win by earning a season sweep of MSU-Northern. The Griffins won the first 11th-straight outing and are now guaranteed to play at home for all their conference tournament games.

It was the Griffin defense that dominated the first half as they held Northern (25-4, 10-3) to just six baskets and 14 points. With the game tied at 13-13 with 8:00 to play before intermission, Westminster outscored the Sky Lights, 14-1, to close the half and held them to eight-straight missed shots and three turnovers during the stretch.

The lead reached 15 early in the first half, and Northern recorded a 12-5 spurt to get the deficit down to eight with just more than 14 minutes to play. Alli Winters buried a pair of threes in the next 3:22 of action to anchor a 12-4 answer from the Griffins that had the lead back to 48-32 with 9:11 remaining. The lead remained in double figures the rest of the night to send the six Griffin seniors to victory in their final regular season home game.

It was one of those seniors, Shelby Ellsworth, which led Westminster with 14 points in the game. She went 5-of-10 from the field and grabbed seven rebounds and two steals. Amanda Hacking, another senior, finished with 12 points and 12 rebounds — seven offensive — for her team-leading fourth double-double of the year. Winters finished with 10 points, five rebounds and five assists.

Westminster shot 41.7 percent from the floor after going 11-of-22 in the second half. The Griffins had just three buckets from beyond the arc but went 16-of-23 (69.6 percent) at the foul line. They totaled 16 assists on 20 made field goals with only nine turnovers.

MSU-Northern was held to 32 percent shooting for the night and committed 11 turnovers for 16 Griffin points. The Sky Lights were led by 12 points from Megan Feldman, and they played without their leading scorer and rebounder, A’jha Edwards.

The Griffins spend the final week of the regular season on the road for a pair of games. They begin the trip at No. 25 Lewis-Clark State on Thursday at 6:30 p.m. MT. Westminster hosts a semifinal game of the Frontier Tournament on March 6 at 7 p.m., against an opponent to be determined.