With a playoff berth wrapped up, all that remained for the Vikings to cap off their regular season was to bid farewell to their senior players. To do so with a win would be the icing on the cake. Portland State defeated Northern Colorado 77-63 Saturday afternoon, wrapping up their regular-season conference schedule and marking the last home games for senior guard Heather Arns and senior center Monica Uhrig, both of whom started the game on the court.
With a playoff berth wrapped up, all that remained for the Vikings to cap off their regular season was to bid farewell to their senior players. To do so with a win would be the icing on the cake.
Portland State defeated Northern Colorado 77-63 Saturday afternoon, wrapping up their regular-season conference schedule and marking the last home games for senior guard Heather Arns and senior center Monica Uhrig, both of whom started the game on the court.
“It was fun,” Arns said. “All the girls were just telling me to go out there and play, not think about anything. I think I was more focused on trying to win the game. I’m proud of the way we played tonight, and it was a nice win.”
On senior night, Arns rose to the occasion. Sporting classic double-striped green-and-white socks, she netted 16 points to go along with nine rebounds, falling just one board shy of a double-double. In addition, she went 2-for-4 from behind the arc and converted all six of her free-throws attempts.
“When they announced her name and were saying all that stuff about her, I think our whole team started to tear up,” said freshman guard Claire Faucher, discussing her last game with Arns. “She brings so many things to the table, not only on the court but in the locker room.”
Uhrig, who has battled injury her whole career, played in just her fifth game of the year Saturday. In her first start of the season, she scored 2 points and grabbed two boards in four minutes of play.
The game also marked a milestone in Portland State basketball history, as forward Kelsey Kahle became the 12th woman player to score 1,000 points in her career. As only a sophomore, she has more than a legitimate chance to surpass Laurie Northrop’s 1,801 points and become the all-time Viking leader by the time her senior night comes around.
“I wasn’t really aware of it until somebody on my team was looking online and told me, ‘Oh wow, you’re kind of close to that,'” Kahle said of the scoring mark. “But you know what? That’s great, but there’s two more years to play, and that’s how I feel about that.”
In all, Kahle filled up the box score with 23 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks, earning her the Big Sky player of the week. Sophomore Jenni Ritter also contributed to an all-around Viking win, converting 4-of-6 treys and finishing with 13 points.
Portland State took control from the start, opening up the game with a 13-2 advantage. Northern Colorado would cut the deficit to just 4 with nearly five minutes left in the first half. After a nice run that left Colorado in the dirt, the Vikings went into the break with a 17-point lead.
Portland State cruised the rest of the way. Despite shooting just over 33 percent in the second half, the Vikings never let their lead dwindle lower than 7 points. Fittingly, Arns scored the last points of the afternoon as her free throws set the final score at 77-63.
“Northern Colorado had nothing to play for except pride, and I knew they’d come out playing hard, and they did,” said Portland State head coach Charity Elliott. “We just kind of weathered the storm, and we got the win, which is what we needed to do today.”
What lies ahead for the Vikings is the Big Sky tournament, held in Missoula, Mont. Portland State, making their second consecutive trip to the tournament, will open up against Weber State in a quarterfinal game on Thursday, March 8, at 4:30 p.m.
“It’s been a crazy, crazy year in the Big Sky, and I think that shows that this tournament could be a lot of fun next week,” Elliott said. “I think right now we’re playing about where we want to be playing this time of the year.”
In their two meetings with the Wildcats this season, the Vikings have come up empty, losing by an average score of 19 points. Weber State, however, has been scuffling lately and enters the tournament as losers of three of their last four. Conversely, the Vikings have won three of their past four and look to continue their momentum into the playoffs.
“I’m excited. We haven’t been able to capitalize on Weber yet this year, but with how we’ve been playing it will be a really fun matchup,” Kahle said.
Big Sky awards
Even after missing the first nine of 29 games, Claire Faucher recently won the Big Sky freshman of the year award. She is averaging 7.8 points, 3.4 rebounds and 6.63 assists in Big Sky play.
Kelsey Kahle was also honored and made first-team all-Big Sky for the second year in a row. During conference play she is averaging 18.3 points, 6.6 rebounds and a Big Sky-leading 2.93 steals per game.