Weekend wins give Viks bid to tournament

The Portland State women’s basketball team swept the weekend at home and put themselves in contention for next month’s Big Sky Tournament.

The Portland State women’s basketball team swept the weekend at home and put themselves in contention for next month’s Big Sky Tournament.

The team beat the Weber State Wildcats on Thursday night in a back-and-forth game that ended with a 68-60 victory. On Saturday the Viks headed into the breast cancer awareness “Pink Zone” game against Northern Arizona who the Viks beat 76-55.

The pair of wins holds the Vikings (15-10, 8-4 Big Sky) steady in their fourth-place position, behind the Montanas who are tied with 9-3 conference records.

Thursday night’s win against the ‘Cats opened with a tribute to head coach Sherri Murrell from her high school alma mater, St. Mary’s Academy. With the star of last season’s Viking team Claire Faucher cheering on her former team from the stands, the team pushed through all the ups and downs of the game to come out on top.

The Viks came off of the tip-off running and claimed an early double-digit lead, 21-9, with a jumper by senior forward Kelli Valentine, but the Wildcats answered back. The visiting team brought the score within just one point late in the first half. Despite the surge by the ‘Cats, the Vikings went into the locker room up 33-29.

The second half was a back-and-forth game, in which the Viks struggled to gain a substantial lead. The ‘Cats again came within one point early in the second half off of a pair of free throws from one of their high scorers of the game, senior forward Caitlin Anderson. Despite the surge, forward Shauneice Samms lit up the court. The junior made 17 of the Vikings’ 19 second-half points. Her efforts enabled the home team to get an eight-point run late in the game, putting the score 61-48.

After the run, the Wildcats put up a pair of treys, a pair of foul shots and a jumper to try and get the score in their favor, but the home team took advantage of the visitor’s shooting fouls and went 5-6 from the charity stripe in that last minute. The Vikings sent the discouraged ‘Cats home 68-60.

Regarding the back-and-forth game against a team that has only won one conference match this season, Samms said that the team realized going into the second half they had to step up the game as a whole.

“I felt like the game shouldn’t have been that close we didn’t play our best game in the first half so I felt like as a team we stepped it up [in the second half],” the guard said about her performance. “And since they picked it up, I had to pick it up too.”

Head coach Sherri Murrell termed Thursday night’s game “choppy.” The teams contributed for 39 overall fouls, which Murrell said kept the Viks from finding their flow, but once they did, they were able to secure a win.

With Samms back on the starting lineup for Saturday, the Vikings had no trouble finding a smooth game as the team took a quick lead from a steal and fast break by sophomore guard Courtney VanBrocklin. The sophomore’s shot set off a 12-point run by the Viks. The ‘Jacks pushed back going on a six-point run midway through the first half, but the Vikings headed into halftime up by double-digits 35-21.

VanBrocklin said that going into Saturday’s game, the team focused on spacing offensively and being aware of where they each were on the court. In the second half, the focus on clean offense showed. PSU never let the ‘Jacks get within single digits. On Saturday night, the second half performance was not by Samms but rather VanBrocklin. The junior made 14 of her 18 points in the second half, including a pair of three-pointers.

VanBrocklin led the other PSU high scorers of the night, junior guard Eryn Jones and senior guard Lexi Bishop, to the highest Viking lead of the night 23, with just seconds left on the clock. Wearing pink shoelaces and headbands representing breast cancer awareness, the Vikings sealed their eighth consecutive home win 76-55.

VanBrocklin led the Viks in points on Saturday, with Jones putting down 16 and Bishop adding 10. After the past few weekends, when inside shooters Valentine and Samms have led the team offensively, Murrell said it is always refreshing to know that the team has enough depth to remain on top in scoring when the opposing team keys in on the inside lane.

“We have such firepower on both our inside and outside game, so they were trying to take our inside game out and it opened up our outside,” Murrell said. “So, it’s great to know you have both of those weapons.”

The Vikings are going to have to use this firepower that they have going into the next two weekends. PSU has a tough road ahead of them in the final stretch of regular season play.

The team heads away to take on the two Montana schools next weekend, with Montana State first on Thursday night at 6 p.m., and Montana on Saturday at 6:05 p.m. As if going away against two of the top ranked teams wasn’t enough, the Viks head back to the Stott Center the following weekend to again face the pair of Montanas. ?