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Originally published March 11, 2014 at 6:36 PM | Page modified March 11, 2014 at 11:24 PM

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Seattle U women hope to earn first NCAA tournament berth

The Redhawks, seeded third this season, hope to make up for loss in last year’s WAC tournament title game.

Seattle Times staff reporter

WAC Tournament

Seattle U vs. Missouri-Kansas City,

6 p.m., Orleans Arena, Las Vegas

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The film session was its normal 25 minutes, but Seattle University coach Joan Bonvicini’s message at the end was different.

“I just told the team one of the most powerful emotions is when you feel like you have something to prove, which I feel like we definitely do,” Bonvicini said. “That’s a very powerful thing, and we need to do that in taking it a game at a time.”

Third-seeded SU (14-15) plays the first round of the Western Athletic Conference tournament championship against sixth-seeded Missouri-Kansas City (11-18) on Wednesday at Orleans Arena in Las Vegas.

Despite the seedings, the Kangaroos are the favorite in the matchup with the Redhawks. UMKC swept the two-game series, including a 73-71 overtime win last week at Connolly Center. It was the only game Kansas City won in its final five to finish the season.

Last week against the ’Roos, the Redhawks had a pair of leads they couldn’t protect. SU was up 63-55 in regulation when free throws helped UMKC tie the score late.

In overtime, SU led by five points with 3:36 left before Calli White, a 5-foot-7 freshman guard, nailed a jumper at the buzzer to seal the overtime win. She scored 17 points while senior forward Kim Nezianya a WAC all-conference second-team member, had 21 points and 11 rebounds.

“The big thing for us is finishing the game,” Bonvicini said of a troublesome theme to end the regular season. All three of her team’s recent losses were by single digits.

“We’ve improved defensively but we need to finish strong,” Bonvicini continued. “You’re playing each other three times, and everyone knows each other. It really comes down to fundamentals of your defense and your rebounding.”

SU is in a different position than last season heading into the tournament. The WAC regular-season champion then, Seattle U was favored to win the conference championship and automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. But SU was upset by Idaho in the WAC championship game and had to settle for a WNIT bid.

Kacie Sowell, a first-team All-WAC selection, leads the Redhawks with 14.9 points and 9.2 rebounds.

“We had a great run last year,” Bonvicini said. “Kansas City is a good team, but we’ve got something to prove.

“And it starts (Wednesday).”

Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or

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