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Sports >  Idaho basketball

Sixth-seeded Idaho women and league’s leading scorer Beyonce Bea take on Sacramento State in Big Sky quarterfinals

March 5, 2023 Updated Sun., March 5, 2023 at 9:53 p.m.

Idaho’s Beyonce Bea and the Vandals take on Sacramento State in the conference tournament quarterfinals on Monday.  (Courtesy of Idaho Athletics)
Idaho’s Beyonce Bea and the Vandals take on Sacramento State in the conference tournament quarterfinals on Monday. (Courtesy of Idaho Athletics)
By Peter Harriman For The Spokesman-Review

Hopefully for Idaho, Beyonce Bea has big shoulders.

The Vandals will probably go as far in the Big Sky Conference tournament as she can carry them.

Bea, the league’s leading scorer, averaging 23.1 points per game, scored 40 points against Montana in the Vandals’ final regular season game and pulled down a dozen rebounds. She was named the Big Sky’s player of the week after scoring 27 points against Idaho State and 29 against Weber state before the Vandals were edged, 85-82, in Missoula.

Idaho finished sixth place in the league with a 13-16 overall record, 9-9 Big Sky. The Vandals tangle with league co-leader and No. 3 seed Sacramento State (22-7, 13-5) on Monday at 2:30 p.m. at Idaho Central Arena in Boise in the tournament quarterfinals.

“Beyonce Bea had an amazing game. … In my mind, there is no question she is the most valuable player in our league,” said Idaho coach Jon Newlee of her effort at Montana.

The Vandals’ senior, who plans to use the NCAA’s COVID exemption for another year of eligibility, has consistently drawn two and three defenders throughout the season.

Newlee, who pointed out sarcastically that while Grizzlies basketball coach Brian Holsinger said the plan against Idaho was to give Bea her points but to shut down everyone else, was still sending three defenders at Bea in the fourth quarter.

“If that was the plan, please do it again. Maybe she will get 50,” he said.

However, Newlee acknowledged that as dominant as Bea has been, if Idaho is to advance in the tournament, her teammates must take advantage of opportunities when other teams commit to defending against her. He pointed to junior Sydney Gandy, averaging 9.7 points per game, sophomore Ashlyn Wallace, hitting at a 5.9 points per game average, freshman Rosa Smith, 9.3 points per game, and freshman Sara Brans, averaging 3.3 points off the bench, as players who need to take on scoring responsibilities.

“It is time to step up and show what you are made of.”

He said Wallace is probably Idaho’s best 3-point shooter and “she has a green light. The only thing stopping Ashlyn is Ashlyn. She has to play with that confidence and play with some swag, like she did in high school.”

Against Sacramento State this season, Idaho was tripped up in Sacramento, 71-56, and saw a furious second-half rally come up just short in Moscow Feb. 4, 77-70.

“They had a big four-point play with 18 seconds left. That sealed the deal for them,” Newlee said the Hornets.

If Idaho can win its opening round game, though, Newlee says the Boise venue works for the Vandals, because Treasure Valley fans will turn out.

“It gives us a big boost,” he said. “If we win that first game (subsequent games are) almost a semi-home game down there. That’s what we have done in the past. We have to do it again.”

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