Bittersweet home finish

The women’s basketball team dropped another pair of games over the weekend at the Stott Center, losing 58-68 to Montana State and then dropping a close 54-59 decision to Montana. The games brought PSU’s consecutive losses to 15, tying the dubious school record of 15 straight failures and dropping its record to 2-22 (0-12 Big Sky).

The small crowd in attendance Thursday was treated to a vintage performance by senior guard Heidi Stuart, but unfortunately for the Vikings the game was vintage Portland State, circa 2004. After leading 27-22 at the half, PSU surrendered 46 second-half points and countless threes to the feisty Montana State team.

Stuart poured on 18 points, including many clutch shots down the stretch to keep the Vikings close as MSU made its run. Using a combination of jumpers and crafty post up moves, the senior team captain did her best, but an off night from sophomore Heather Arns and too many turnovers hindered the Viking attack.

On defense, the Viks were overwhelmed by the Bobcats’ crafty screens, which allowed MSU to shoot 52 percent in the second half. Forward Kati Burrows controlled the paint, hustling her way to 22 points while dominating the glass. Burrows grabbed 13 boards, five of them offensive rebounds.

The weekend brought redemption, of a sort. After seniors Heidi Stuart, JJ Magee and Lisa Thompson were honored in a pre-game ceremony, the Vikings steeled themselves for a game against the league-leading Montana Grizzlies.

Portland State jumped on the Grizzlies from the get-go, and led 5-0 after 2 minutes. A Heather Arns jumper with 9:50 left to play in the first half gave the Vikings their last lead at 13-12. Montana went on a 17-8 run to close the half to lead 29-21 at the break.

Things got worse for PSU before they got any better. Montana built on its halftime lead and led 26-46 with 11:43 left to play. That’s when the Vikings made their move.

Heidi Stuart started the run by scoring six straight Viking points and after two Marci Garski free throws added another bucket to make the score 36-50 in favor of Montana.

With the clock winding down and the game still 13 points in favor of the Grizzlies, Heather Arns went off. In a span of two minutes, Arns scored nine points in a row for PSU to bring the Vikings within 49-53. Arns forced four straight Montana turnovers (three of them steals by Arns) and hit three driving lay-ups and a long three pointer during her run.

A Garski free throw made the game 50-53 but the Vikings were unable to get the stops and scores they needed down the stretch, eventually succumbing 54-59. Montana forced some bad decisions with its defense and held on by making six of nine free throws to close the game.

Stuart finished the game with 14 points and eight boards and rebounded after shooting 0-7 in the first half. Stuart was 5-7 from the floor in the second stanza and 4-4 from the foul line in a valiant effort.

Heather Arns had a Heather Arns-like game, as she shot 6-10 from the field on route to 13 points, three assists and a game- and career-high eight steals. She added six rebounds. Freshman center Marci Garski had the best overall performance of her young career, playing stellar defense on Montana’s 6-4 center Hollie Tyler while managing to score seven points and grab four rebounds of her own.

The Vikings are not done yet. They play two away games next week, visiting Sacramento State on Thursday and closing the season out at Northern Arizona Saturday night in Flagstaff.