Academy of Art’s Krystal Forthan a force entering NCAA Division II Tournament 

The Academy of Art University women’s basketball team will enter the NCAA Division II Tournament as a No. 7 seed this weekend, a placement that can be deceptive given that the Urban Knights’ star player didn’t take the court until Dec. 21.

Sophomore Krystal Forthan, a 6-foot-4 forward, transferred from Louisiana State last season, and had to sit out a year under transfer rules. Once she got on board, everything changed for the Urban Knights, as they went on to win 13 of their last 15 games on their way to winning the regular season championship and the Pacific West Conference tournament.

“The statistics speak for themselves,” coach LaNay Larson said of Forthan’s arrival. “All of our percentages have gone up: our winning percentage, our scoring ... defensively she adds a ton. Even the things that don’t add up in the stat sheet. She’s a huge presence at 6-4 with her athletic ability at both ends of the court.”

Their opponent in the first round of the West Regional in Pomona, second-seeded Montana State-Billings, shares the same 23-7 record and also won its conference title. In Larson’s eyes, that means her team has less to lose as it make its second consecutive trip to the tournament.

“Last year, we had a little bit of a chip on our shoulders with [being] the 8-seed having to go in to play a 1-seed,” she said. “After winning the conference and going on a nine-game winning streak, I thought that we had earned a little bit better than that. This year, we won 13 of our last 15 games, won the conference tournament again. Winning the regular-season [title] proved even more.

“I think it’s hard for us to earn respect. I get that we’re a young program, we’re a new program and hopefully every year it gets a little bit easier. For us, it’s like we’re going to have to beat everybody to get where we want to be.”

Forthan will certainly help that cause, as her averages of 19.5 points and 12.4 rebounds per game in the 19 games she has played have been a clear catalyst for the team’s success.

Not to mention a 15-game streak in which she has recorded a double-double. She said muscling her way around the paint is something that comes naturally to her.

“It’s just another thing added on to helping better the team,” she said. “I like rebounding, I like being able to battle people that are bigger than me or think I’m just big and I can’t do a lot.”

NCAA Division II Tournament

WHO: Seventh-seeded Academy of Art (23-7) vs. second-seeded Montana State-Billings (23-7) in West Regional quarterfinal

WHEN: Friday, 2:30 p.m.

WHERE: Kellogg Gym, Pomona

NEXT UP: Winner faces either third-seeded Simon Fraser or sixth-seeded Western Washington in Saturday’s regional semifinals; regional final is Monday

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