By Tiffany L. Rehbein
A balanced offensive scoring attack led the MSU-Northern Skylights to a 79-72 non-conference victory over the Biola University Eagles in the opening game of the Sunbirds Thanksgiving Classic at the Fresno Pacific University Special Events Center Friday.
The Skylights (3-4) closed the tournament with a 69-60 loss to the Fresno Pacific Sunbirds Saturday.
Kristine Noel scored 12 points, Anna Fabatz notched 15, and Jana Smith and Kelsy Burgmaier each tallied 18 in the win Friday.
Noel and Fabatz also grabbed five rebounds each in the contest.
"On Friday night, we came out and played pretty well," head coach Ray Peters said. "It's probably one of the better games we've ever played."
Playing just under 20 minutes in the game, Burgmaier snagged a team-high nine rebounds and shot 9-of-15 from the floor in the effort.
"Kelsy Burgmaier came out and played a fine game," Peters said. "Lynn Kansteiner, as well, came in and played really well."
Kansteiner notched three boards and went 4-for-8 from the field, scoring eight points on the night.
Both girls, at 6-foot, play center for the Skylights.
"We got some good points from our post, and that was good to see," Peters said.
The Skylights led 33-28 at the half, and outscored the Eagles (1-4) by two points in the second half en route to the win.
With 4:45 to play, Eagle Ann-Marie Harbour hit a long 3-pointer and lifted Biola to a 67-65 lead.
Fabatz responded with two 3-pointers of her own, while Burgmaier notched a bucket in the paint to retain the game. Fabatz went 3-for-5 from 3-point land for the Skylights.
"We did a nice job of taking care of the ball, and we executed well down the stretch," Peters said.
The Skylights committed just 14 turnovers in the contest.
Shari Andreason led the Eagles with a double-double. She notched 26 points and 11 rebounds for naught in the game. Harbour finished with four 3-pointers and 14 points.
"I was pretty pleased with our performance Friday," Peters said.
Fresno Pacific (2-4) snapped a four-game losing streak with its win over the Skylights Saturday.
"It was a very physical game," Peters said. "I thought this was our best game as far as coming out and really competing."
The Sunbirds committed six turnovers on their first eight possessions of the game, but managed a 16-3 run to take a 29-17 lead midway through the first half.
The Skylights responded with some unanswered points of their own, and closed the gap to 29-23 at the half.
Noel had a game-high 20 points in the contest. She shot 67 percent from the field, went 2-for-2 from 3-point land, and 2-for-2 from the free throw line to lead the Skylights.
Six-foot-1 center Laura Munson also reached double figures with 16 points, shooting 8-for-9 from the field.
"The difference in the game was they shot 30 free throws to our 10," Peters said. "It was a very physical game. It would have been easy for our kids to lose the ball offensively or to lose the ball a couple of times on the rebound, but they just played very strong."
The Skylights went 9-for-10 from the free throw line, while the Sunbirds connected on 17-of-30 in the game.
With 5:05 remaining, the Skylights knotted up the game at 54-54 on a bucket by Munson. The lead would exchange hands five more times in more than two minutes of play.
The Sunbirds sewed up the victory from the foul line in the end.
Burgmaier and Smith, who finished with three and six points, respectively, both fouled out of the game. The Skylights committed 23 fouls compared to just nine for the Sunbirds.
"This was a great game from the aspect that we were able to continue to compete through a very physical game," Peters said. "Even though we did lose, we showed a lot character and a lot of fight."
Junior Brianne Dunn, who has been recovering from an injury, again played limited minutes during the course of the weekend.
Fabatz, who played nearly 30 minutes, notched nine rebounds in the contest for the Skylights.
The Sunbirds were led by Erika Bargas who scored 19 points, shot 83 percent from the field and 3-point land, and went 4-for-6 from the free throw line.
"I was very proud of my kids for competing in a very tough situation and not getting down," Peters said.
The Skylights will play the University of Lethbridge at Havre Friday and Saturday.