Vikings get key home win

The Vikings’ team defense and heart shined bright as the women’s basketball team rallied back to defeat the Eastern Washington Eagles 62-56 on Saturday at the Peter W. Stott Center.

After close losses to Northern Arizona and Sacramento State the Portland State women’s basketball team returned home and got some revenge on the visiting Eagles. The last game between the two was decided by last-minute heroics by the Eagles. In this game the Viks would prove they wanted the win more and they had more heart.

After a bad first half the Vikings were down by 13 points. Led by determination and teamwork the Viks clawed back, making big play after big play. Freshman forward Kelsey Kahle started the momentum shift by stealing the ball and making a fast-break layup to cut the lead to nine. This was the story of the entire game – incredible Viking pressure and Eagle turnovers. The Eagles had 33 turnovers for the game. The Vikings had 18.

“It was complete team defense; everybody was where they were supposed to be and rotating correctly. When they moved the ball we brought it to them, we didn’t stand back on our heels. We forced turnovers by sprinting to them and they were backing up at half court; they didn’t want to cross half court,” Kahle said. “We just caught them off guard by playing on our toes and forcing them to go back on theirs.”

Kahle recorded her seventh double-double of the season, netting 13 points and 14 rebounds.

With over 13 minutes left in the second half the Vikings went on a 15-2 run to take the lead sparked by back-to-back three-pointers by freshman shooting guard Jenny Ritter and a tenacious defense that recovered 18 turnovers in the second half alone.

“It wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t moved the ball around and been working the inside-outside so well,” Ritter said.

With the score tied at 48 and 6:40 left on the clock the Vikings would show that they had more heart than the Eagles. Kahle hit back-to-back layups off of junior guard Heather Arns’ two steals. The Vikings went on an 8-0 run to put the lead at 56-48.

But the Eagles wouldn’t go down easy. Guard Leah Gonnella hit two three-pointers back to back and left only 59 seconds on the clock, the score 58-56. It looked as though the Viks might lose the momentum. However, junior center Brianna Thompson stole the ball on the inbound pass and made a layup to bring back the momentum and put the game away.

“I think we just know what we need to do to get it done. It was all team. There was not one individual person after we got the momentum back – it was all about getting that extra pass for the open shot,” Thompson said, who led the team in points with 16 and had a game-high seven steals.

Head coach Charity Elliott was pleased with her team’s effort and credited the victory to overall team defense.

“The second half might have been the best team basketball we’ve ever played, as far as 20 minutes of all of us being on the same page. At halftime we didn’t have the momentum,” Elliott said. “I kept saying, ‘we gotta get the momentum back, we gotta get the momentum back.’ Heather came up with some big steals, Kelsey had a big one and Bri had that last minute one.”

Elliott was clearly pleased with her team’s effort and looked ragged by game’s end.

“I don’t think we used to have the confidence or belief that we could and we will comeback in a game like this. Every time you do it you get a little bit more confident,” Elliott said. “And I think it shows the character of this team – we’ve had our ups and we’ve had our downs and we’ve been really close on the road and we have taken some giant steps from last year.”