Sharing the spotlight

Basketball occasionally brings together a dynamic duo. Oftentimes, the two players will share a unique bond on the floor, connecting for easy transition buckets or combining for a lethal inside-outside attack.

Basketball occasionally brings together a dynamic duo. Oftentimes, the two players will share a unique bond on the floor, connecting for easy transition buckets or combining for a lethal inside-outside attack.

And while many of these pairings are short-lived due to personal egos prevailing over the concept of teamwork, the Portland State women’s basketball team has a terrific twosome that seems quite content with working together to achieve a common goal.

“I have never been a part of a team that was so unselfish and that starts (with Faucher and Kahle),” said freshman center Kelli Valentine.

The Vikings’ resurgence this season has thrown junior forward Kelsey Kahle and running mate sophomore point guard Claire Faucher into the spotlight. After finishing 12-18 a year ago, Portland State is in the midst of one of the most remarkable turnaround stories in the nation, at 15-4 this season.

Viking fans may point to the terrific play of the four freshmen who have stepped into substantial roles this season, or they may single out the strategy and techniques new head coach Sherri Murrell employs. But one aspect that surely will not slip their mind is the brilliant play of Kahle and Faucher.

After each earning the Big Sky Freshman of the Year award in their respective first seasons at Portland State, both players have relied on hard work to continue to develop their game on the court.

“Kelsey and Claire are two of our leaders at practice,” said Murrell. “I have been impressed with their work ethic since day one.”

Setting the tone early in the season, Kahle and Faucher’s play has paved the way for much of the Vikings’ success. Kahle, already ranked among the best female basketball players ever at Portland State, is averaging 18 points per game while shooting a conference-leading 54 percent from the field. Her eight rebounds and four steals per contest also place her among the conference’s elite.

“Kelsey Kahle is just an amazing athlete. Really, I can’t say anything more. She is just such an incredible player to play with,” Faucher said.

Faucher is seemingly as gifted at dishing out compliments as she is with the basketball in her hands. Leading the nation in assists per game, averaging just fewer than nine per game, the point guard also has filled up the stat sheet in other categories this season.

Faucher has had double-digit assists in nine games this season, while matching Kahle with six double-doubles. The duo also wreaks havoc on opposing teams at the other end of the court, with both tallying better than two steals per game.

“Claire does such a good job of getting the ball to people in position to score,” Kahle said. “She really makes much of the game easier for us.”

Nearing the halfway point of their conference season, Portland State’s dynamic duo may be the most formidable twosome in the Big Sky and one of the best in school history. However, Kahle and Faucher quickly defer the credit to their team, coach and loyal fan base.

“All we care about is winning each game,” Kahle said. “That is the best part of this team: We don’t care about anything else but getting the next victory.”

Earlier this season, the Vikings faced off against one of the other premier tandems in the conference, taking on Idaho State’s Natalie Doma and Andrea Lightfoot. The Vikings were able to establish an interior presence despite the considerable advantage in size and skill of Doma, the nation’s second-leading scorer.

Forced into foul trouble, Doma, a senior center, spent considerable time on the bench, while an aggressive Portland State defense stymied Lightfoot’s usually potent offensive attack. The senior guard ended the game with zero points on just three shot attempts and was a non-factor as the Vikings blew out the Bengals in a 40-point rout.

“That was an incredible performance by the team defensively,” Kahle said.

At times each has looked like the dominant player on the court, and both possess the natural ability to do whatever they wish with the basketball at any point in the game. But beyond their athletic ability on the court is their eagerness to divert recognition to teammates, which is perhaps their greatest strength.

Unlike so many terrific players that have teamed up before, Kahle and Faucher each seem quite happy to step into the role of distributor, rebounder, defender or whatever the assignment might be during a given game. Either player is happy to just be a part of a winning team–a unique attitude, indeed.