Women end senior night with first-ever season title

After a rapid 40 minutes of play, the women’s basketball regular season title all came down to a pair of free throws.

After a rapid 40 minutes of play, the women’s basketball regular season title all came down to a pair of free throws. With four seconds to go in the deciding game of Big Sky play, junior guard Eryn Jones stood at the line with the score tied 63-63 between Portland State and Montana State.

Jones shot and scored—twice. The Vikings fans erupted in cheers as the PSU women’s team broke the second-place tie with Montana State and pulled out their first Big Sky regular season title, and with it an opportunity to host the upcoming weekend’s conference tournament.

The junior said there was a lot going through her mind as she stood at the line.

“I just thought about hosting and winning our conference and winning it for our seniors,” Jones said.

PSU’s win, combined with an Idaho State upset of top-ranked Northern Colorado on the same day, gave the Vikings a co-championship title with the UNC Bears. However, due to earlier rankings of the teams, PSU trumps the Bears and will host the tournament.

PSU will play its first tournament game on Friday following the quarterfinal games that occurred yesterday, the results of which were not available at press time. The exact time of the game is to be determined, but will start soon after the completion of the Northern Colorado game at 4:30 p.m.

It was a huge weekend for the Vikings overall. On Thursday, the Viks dominated the Montana Lady Griz for a second consecutive time. The Vikings opened without usual starter sophomore guard Courtney VanBrocklin. Instead, fellow sophomore Karley Lampman made her second appearance in the starting lineup and the team ran with the change. They gained an early 9-0 lead, but Montana responded at the end of the first half—in part due to dismal Viking three-point shooting and rebounding—causing the Viks to go into halftime ahead by just one, 20-19.

Senior forward Kelly Marchant had one of her best performances of the season on Thursday, leading the team with 13 points. The Griz slightly controlled the court in the second half, but a trey by Marchant tied the score at 40, after which the senior added a steal and a quick pass to Jones for a bucket, giving the Viks their first second half lead 42-40.

Head coach Sherri Murrell said that big defensive moments like the Marchant-to-Jones bucket were important for the Vikings.

“I felt like our defense really played a key [role], they got those steals and got back the momentum,” Murrell said. “But Kelly Marchant won the game for us tonight.”

The Griz responded with a clutch jumper after Jones’ lay-in, knotting the score at 42-42 for the last time. Marchant was fouled on the next play and sealed the Viking victory with a pair of free throws, ending the game 53-47.

Murrell said after Thursday night’s game, that depth was a key factor for success over powerful teams like Montana, and the depth that the Vikings held flowed into Saturday’s match against Montana State.

After an announcement of the Vikings seniors’ achievements, after which Murrell also awarded the Montana State seniors’ with bouquets, the game began with an equally memorable starting lineup. Murrell fittingly gave the four seniors, Marchant, Valentine, guard Lexi Bishop and center Courtney Cremer the starting spots for the evening.

Led by their seniors, the Viks shot out of the gate quickly. At halftime, PSU held a seven-point advantage, which was about the same time the news that Northern Colorado had lost their game was released. While the stands knew about the upset, the Viking coaches and players were unaware. Murrell said she was strict about keeping the focus on Montana, not on the tournament.

“I told everyone to not tell me, and to not tell our kids, because I really didn’t want to know,” Murrell said. “I didn’t want that pressure to come on us because, really, the bottom line was [that] we had to take care of this first.”

The Bobcats were equally as anxious for a win, and mounted a comeback in the second half. They came within just one point with 6:17 left in the game, and even tied the score with 12 seconds left. Jones, who scored a team-high 23 points, missed a jumper to win the game, but was fouled and sent to the line for her winning free throws.

The team celebrated the victory, and the announcement that they had won the Big Sky regular season made the win even more exciting. After cutting the nets and celebrating, Murrell said that focusing one game at a time was crucial for the weekend to come.

“Too many teams put pressure on themselves; we have to keep doing what got us here,” Murrell said.

Ticket information for tonight’s game along with Saturday’s championship game can be found at goviks.com. ?