Women’s basketball starts season with a win

The Portland State women’s basketball team started the season out on the right foot Sunday with a decisive 87-77 win over the Montana State-Northern Skylights in a non-counting exhibition game. Tied at 43 going into the half, the Vikings came out shooting in the second half and pulled ahead 56-47 on a Heather Arns jumper with 15 minutes left and never looked back. The lead would balloon to 17 before the Vikings got sloppy in the final minutes.

Sophomore center Brianna Thompson led the Vikings with 27 points on 13-19 shooting and six rebounds, providing the inside scoring the team sorely lacked last year on it’s way to a 3-23 season.

“It’s a good feeling coming off last year, even though I didn’t play,” Thompson said. The six-foot center red-shirted last season after transferring from Northern Idaho College.

Perennial scoring threat Heather Arns was quiet in the first half but ended up with 14 points and two assists. The 5-foot-10-inch junior forward was an All-Big Sky honorable mention last season. Point guard Sharon Wahinekapu, the team’s lone senior, looked comfortable running the motion offense in her second year as a starter and finished with eight points and nine assists with two turnovers.

Freshman guard Jenni Ritter played a solid game in her Portland State debut. The Klamath Falls native scored 16 points and added five boards and six assists with no turnovers. Ritter showed off her deft outside-shooting touch with three three-pointers. Fellow freshman and North Marion High School product Kelsey Kahle played an aggressive game but struggled from the field, shooting 4-13 for 14 points.

“I felt we played really well together,” Ritter said. “A lot of us were here over the summer and we have just come together really well in practice.”

Second-year head coach Charity Elliott was pleased with her team’s debut.

“I like that we have a lot of weapons and a lot of people who can get the job done,” Elliott said. “We’re just very unselfish and team oriented.”

Despite the sterling performance of her key players, Elliott remained concerned with the lack of defensive awareness that allowed the Skylights to shoot 65 percent in the first half.

“Defensively we have got to get more solid,” Elliott said, adding the team must also work on blocking out and securing rebounds. The Vikings were out-rebounded 37-25 but made up for it by creating 30 MSU-Northern turnovers and swiping 19 steals. Every Viking who played except for sophomore guard Audrey Grant had at least one steal.

The Vikings now look ahead to their Friday evening home contest against Nevada, the season’s first counting game. Tip-off is 7:00 p.m. at the Stott Center.