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Havre native Loree Payne guides Northern Arizona to second straight Big Sky championship game

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Posted at 3:46 PM, Mar 07, 2023

BOSIE, Idaho — For the second straight year, Havre native Loree Payne has led the Northern Arizona women's basketball team to the Big Sky Conference tournament championship game.

NAU, the top women's seed at the Big Sky tournament, topped No. 4 Eastern Washington 74-57 on Tuesday afternoon at Idaho Central Arena to clinch their spot in the tournament's championship game.

Point guard Regan Schenck led the way for the Lumberjacks with 22 points and six assists and Nyah Moran added 16 while Sophie Glancey chipped in a double-double of 13 points and 10 rebounds.

It'll be back-to-back championship games for Payne and the Lumberjacks after NAU advanced to the title game against Montana State last year, a game they lost 75-64.

This season marks Payne's sixth as the head coach of NAU and it's been one for the history books. Payne — who signed a contract extension last Aprilafter last year's run for NAU — was named one of the Big Sky Coaches of the Year alongside MSU's Tricia Binford and Sacramento State's Mark Campbell.

The Lumberjacks improved to 21-12 with their win over the Eagles on Tuesday, which marks their most wins in a season since they went 22-11 in 2005-06, which was the last time NAU won the conference tournament. Every year NAU has improved with Payne as head coach after she took over the program in 2017-18 and went 7-23 in her first season.

One of the most decorated players to come from Montana out of Havre High School, Payne had a standout playing career at Washington before embarking on the coaching route with stops at Northwest Nazarene, Portland, Washington and her first head coaching gig at Puget Sound.

NAU will play the winner of No. 7 Portland State and No. 3 Sacramento State on Wednesday at 3:00 p.m. in the championship game.