Vikings fall in the quarterfinals

The Eastern Washington Eagles recovered from season-ending back-to-back losses at home to knock the Vikings women’s basketball team out of the Big Sky Championships. The Vikings were defeated in round one, 71-64, at Weber State’s home court in Ogden, Utah.

This was PSU’s third trip to the tournament since joining the league in 1996, but it was not their most successful. In 1999, the team made it all the way to the finals before being defeated by Cal State Northridge.

This season, the Vikings’ 13 wins qualified them for the fourth seed in the tournament, a position that was almost captured by the fifth-ranked Eagles. The teams met twice in the regular season and both were able to garner a win on their home courts. Perhaps hinting at what was to come, the Vikings just narrowly edged out EWU, 78-69, in overtime at the Stott Center in January. The Eagles paid them back at Reese Court in February with an authoritative 65-45 win. In addition, the Eagles had won five of their past six match-ups with PSU.

The third meeting between the teams on March 13 in Utah belonged to the Eagles. Eastern Washington opened both halves with 6-0 runs and never relinquished the lead. The Eagles shot the ball well, posting a 52.1 field-goal percentage in the game. PSU ended the game at 41.8 percent.

“We didn’t have any energy out there. It’s a do-or-die game, and when Eastern Washington turned and fought, we stood still,” said head coach George Wolfe in a recent press release.

Even so, several Viking players made their marks in the game. Center Carrie Spencer led the team with 14 points, five rebounds. Forward Sarah Hedgepeth, who was named to the All-Big Sky first team, had an impressive 10 points and 16 rebounds. Nikki Petticrew and Niki Sadowski also had 10 points apiece.

Eagle Kathleen Nygaard had a solid game with 18 points and eight rebounds. Stephanie Ulmer boosted the Eagles with 16 points and seven rebounds, and Janelle Ruen had 10 points and four rebounds. Eagle head coach Wendy Schiller sang the praises of senior point guard Michelle Demetruk, who had eight points, five rebounds and six steals.

“Michelle hawked their point guard up and down the floor the entire night,” Schiller said in a recent press release. “She gave her fits in terms of handling the ball. When it came time for us to handle the basketball, she did a good job of making decisions.”

The Eagle excitement was short-lived. In a virtual repeat of last season, the Eagles went on to lose to Weber State in the semis. For the second year in a row, the Wildcats continued on to defeat Montana State for first place in the championships and an automatic bid in the NCAA tournament.

Weber State was knocked out of the first round of the NCAA tournament by Ohio State (66-44) on March 23.