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Central Washington University

CWU Women’s Basketball Team Excels On- and Off-the-Court

2019 CWU women's basketball teamTop achievement in class and top accomplishments on the hardwood were, again, hallmarks for the CWU women’s basketball team during the just completed 2018-19 hoops campaign.

The Wildcats won their way into the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) for the fifth time in school history on the strength of a 17-10 season during which CWU went 12-8 in GNAC play. 

“I’m very happy about the direction in which the program is headed,” said second year CWU head coach Randi Richardson-Thornley, looking back on the campaign. “We are taking steps forward toward being an NCAA tournament team and that type of program. Our players are really buying in and working hard.” 

It was the second straight year CWU made the tournament field under second year head coach Richardson-Thornley.

“She has a lot of those intangibles that you just can’t teach,” CWU Director of Athletics Dennis Francois said about his coach. “She played at a high level herself. But, when we hired Randi, I think what we saw in her—that you really can’t coach—is her work ethic, intensity, passion, and will to win.”

Work ethic, intensity, passion, and will to win were characteristics that were also shown by several of her players this year, including the team’s leading scorer, junior guard Alexis Pana. Along with 14.2 points per game, she led the Wildcats, and the conference during the regular season, in assists (5.0 per game) and steals (2.1 per game).

After receiving honorable mention all-conference honors in 2017-18, Pana earned first team recognition for her play this season. The junior, from Hilo, Hawaii, also was named to the GNAC academic all-conference team for the second straight year after recording a 3.53 grade point average (GPA) in art. 

“The two [athletic and academic success] correlate,” Richardson-Thornley added. “Athletes who are successful in the classroom have the determination and time management skills to also be successful on the [basketball] floor. We do have a standard and expectation that is set for academics within our program. We recruit that way as well; players with strong work ethics who also place a high level of importance on their studies.”  

Pana wasn’t the only Wildcat to win conference accolades. Sophomore forward Kassidy Malcolm, from Ellensburg, and senior guard Sadie Mensing, of Snohomish, were both named GNAC honorable mention for their on-court performances, and to the all-academic team too. Malcolm, who is studying adventure leadership, had a 3.69 GPA, while Mensing was named all-academic for the third straight year, with a 3.78 GPA in mechanical engineering technology.

Juniors Kaelie Flores, from Keizer, Oregon; and Taylor Shaw, Oregon City, Oregon, also earned all-academic honors for the second year in a row. Flores had a 3.25 GPA in family and child life, and Shaw recorded a 3.52 GPA in recreation tourism and events. 

Selections to the GNAC All-Academic Teams must be of sophomore standing or greater, be in their second year at the nominating school, have a minimum of a 3.20 cumulative grade point average at their current institution and be on the roster for their team the full season.

Francois added, “I think a big part of it [team success] is developing a positive culture. You see that within championship programs, those programs that win more than once. There is a great culture that has developed in this program and it will play a major role in our women’s basketball team’s ability to sustain success.”

Richardson-Thornley agreed that continued and long-term Wildcat success is the ultimate goal.

“For me, as a competitor, I don’t think I will ever be satisfied until we win our last game of the year,” she added. “We want more for our program, and see that it is capable of more. We won’t be satisfied until we make the NCAA tournament and we win some games there.”

Media contact: Robert Lowery, Department of Public Affairs, 509-963-1487,

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

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