Vikings advance to semifinals

“We just need to play our hardest,” women’s basketball coach Sherri Murrell said earlier this week. “We don’t want this to be our last game.”

Last night, her team ensured it would not be Murrell’s last game of the year when the fifth-seeded Vikings defeated fourth-seeded Idaho State 75–61 in the quarterfinals of the Big Sky Tournament. The win gives Portland State a ticket to today’s semifinals, where they will take on Montana for a shot at the conference championship.

The game opened up on a layup by Idaho State’s Ashleigh Vella, but the Bengals did not hold the lead for long. At just over three minutes in, Idaho State had their last lead of the game slip away.

Midway through the first half the Vikings went on a 21–9 run that ended with a three-point shot from forward Erin Yankus, who would chalk several other key shots of the game. She scored the first two PSU baskets, the last in the run and the final basket of the game.

At the half, the Vikings went into the locker room leading 41–30, and after returning to play they continued to increase their lead.

The second half opened in PSU’s favor with a layup by junior guard Lexi Bishop who pulled the Viks ahead by 13. Bishop was one of three PSU players to score in double digits, with 13 points on the night. Senior guard Kelly Marchant and junior forward Kelli Valentine each chalked 14 points.

With less than seven minutes remaining, a free throw by Marchant put the Viks up 43–60 for their largest lead of the game. From there they would only see their lead decrease to within 11 points at two minutes remaining.

Portland State played a game of impressive shooting and defense, outshooting the Bengals from the free throw line by 11 points overall, and going a perfect 7 for 7 in the first half. The Viks also bested the Bengals’ .387 shooting with a .466 average of their own.

On defense it was Wade and sophomore guard Eryn Jones that led for the Vikings. Jones put up a career-high five steals, and Wade put up six blocks.

Murrell said the focus would be on playing strong on both ends of the court, and holding that strength for the entire 40 minutes. Last night, Portland State did just that.

The Viks take on the Montana Lady Griz today for the third consecutive season in the Big Sky Tournament, and they are looking to change history. In the past two matchups, the Lady Griz halted PSU’s advancement to the NCAA Tournament In 2008, Montana beat PSU 94–80 in the semis, and beat them again 69–62 in last season’s championship game.

Tip off of PSU’s semifinal game is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. in Cheney, Wash.

Scores by period
                           1st    2nd    Final
Portland State    41    34    75
Idaho State          30    31    61

Team stats

          FG          3PG        FT         REB       STL
PSU    25–56    8–23    17–21    35        17
            .446      .348     .810

ISU    24–62       7–19    6–11       34         10
             .387    .368       .545