Women’s basketball limps into tourney

Portland State women’s basketball had an up-and-down weekend at home. The team clinched a spot into the Big Sky Conference by beating Sacramento State on Thursday but lost its final game to Northern Arizona Saturday afternoon.

The Vikings have secured their first post-season spot since 2002 after beating Sac State 72-60 at the Stott Center. The return to glory had to do with successful team defense and a strong offensive performance out of the starting five.

The team shot a season high 52.6 percent from the field, swatting the Hornets with one of the best offensive shows the Stott Center had seen from the women’s team this year. Portland State now owns the sixth and final seed in the Big Sky tournament.

Head coach Charity Elliott was ecstatic about the win and the tournament berth.

“Heather was our emotional leader again, she hit some huge shots for us. Kelsey was solid, solid, solid,” Elliott said after Thursday’s win. “But you can’t say it was one person who made this for us, it was Sharon hitting those free throws in the end, it was Delaney hitting shots, it was Bri hitting big shots, it was everybody doing something and that’s what I was proud of tonight, that it was a complete team effort.”

After a layup put the score at 52 apiece with 8:05 left in the second period, the Vikings went on a 12-2 run. Pushing the score to 64-54, the Hornets battled back hitting two treys to cut the lead to 65-60 with a little over two minutes left. However, the Vikings would not give up the game, pouring on the final 7 points to end the game.

“At that point, with two and a half minutes to go, they hit two threes; we lost the momentum. So we talked about how we were going to get it back and I think at that point we went long and beat their pressure,” Elliott said.

Kahle led the team in scoring, going 10-11 from the floor to finish with 21 points. Junior guard Heather Arns had one of her best games, adding 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Jenni Ritter had a game-high four steals making up for her 0-4 shooting from the three-point line.

The young team relies heavily on momentum shifts. Keeping their spirits high, emotions under control and confidence on the court are the keys to the Vikings’ success.

“We talk a lot about momentum and you’re going to have stretches where you have it and you have stretches where you lose it and you’ve got to be able to get it back and I thought we kept getting it back tonight,” Elliott said.

Saturday’s game against the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks showed losing the keys to the momentum shifts can lead to disaster. The final regular season game was a brutal 94-77 blowout.

“We got beat down the floor every time. I am apologizing to our fans because of what they had to see. We had no effort, no effort at all. We got out-hustled, outplayed, out-hearted,” Elliott said. “We got what we deserved. We’ve got to go now into the tournament and probably play them again, so we will see.”

The Vikings could not compare to the Lumberjacks, who shot 53.8 percent from the floor and could not miss from the three-point line, hitting seven of eight in the first half alone. The Lumberjacks had size to force help off of shooters and couldn’t miss from behind the arc. Alyssa Wahl’s size overpowered the small Vikings team. She led the Lumberjacks with 29 points and Northern Arizona had four players total in double figures.

“I have two different teams that decide play. Tonight was a team that I was embarrassed to say this is my team right now,” Elliott said.

All the Vikings starters had double digits in points but none broke 20 points. Sophomore center Brianna Thompson had a double-double, dropping a team-high 15 points (tied with Kahle) and 11 rebounds. Freshman guard Katia Hadj-Hamou came off the bench and had 8 points, hitting two threes back to back to pull the Vikings away from a 30 point blowout.

With the tournament fast approaching, the Viks face the same tough Arizona team and Elliott hopes they can make a quick turnaround for this Thursday’s game in Pocatello. The biggest issue the Vikings have faced all year is the size difference. They are outsized week in, week out and have to work twice as hard to stop the inside presence that the Lumberjacks bring.

“We’ve just got to get back to work on Monday, figure this out and then come back on Thursday. It’s one at a time from now on, we are zero and zero and you win or go home,” Elliott said.