The women’s basketball team seems to have finally found the chemistry needed to earn the elusive road win.
Last week, the team proved it can win in venues other than the Peter Stott Center when it narrowly defeated both Idaho State (65-64) and Weber State (62-59) in front of their home crowds.
Thursday night’s game in Pocatello, Idaho, was significant for more than one reason. The win secured a Viking bid in the upcoming Big Sky Conference Championships, scheduled to be held March 13-15.
The victory was hard won for the Portland State team, which had a tough time retaining the advantage for much of the game. ISU led by 10 points at 61-51 with 4:52 left to play, after Bengal Laraine Skow hit two free throws. Viking Sarah Hedgepeth answered with baskets on the next two PSU possessions, effectively cutting the Bengal lead to just six. Nikki Petticrew hit a huge three-pointer for the Vikings with the clock at only 3:26. PSU forward Jenna Washington then made a pair of free throws and a layup on the next two possessions that finally put the Vikings up by one at 62-61.
Skow was given the opportunity to regain the Bengal lead with a pair of free throws, but made only one. With the score tied at 62, Viking Jane Gowans made a quick layup, followed by Bengal forward Heidi Gifford’s layup on the other side to once again tie the score.
In the tense final seconds of the game, PSU was called for a shot-clock violation and ISU had the chance to take the last possession – and the win – with only nine seconds left. Fortunately for the Vikings, Bengal Tiffany Williams lost the inbound pass, and Gowans was able to draw a foul on the other end. She made only one of the free throws, but it was enough to secure the win with less than a second on the clock.
Hedgepeth led three Viking scorers in double digits with 13 points, eight rebounds. Petticrew had 12 points and 6 rebounds, while Carrie Spencer posted 10 points and 4 rebounds.
In perhaps one of the biggest upsets of the BSC season, the Vikings went on defeat top-ranked Weber State on Saturday night.
The first half of play went neck and neck until the halftime buzzer, when the score read 33-33. Portland State shot 56.5 percent in the first half, while Weber State was affected by a tenacious Viking defensive effort, only shooting 33.3 percent.
In the second half, the game displayed more of the same playoff intensity. The Vikings trailed by as many as six points in the second frame. However, the intensity increased from the Vikings taking a five-point lead with around four minutes to play. From there, the Wildcats would battle back, but only to come up short on a last-second three-pointer to tie at the horn.
The team played outstanding, said head coach George Wolfe. “As a team, we really grew up over the weekend,” he said.
The Viking bench was the deciding difference in the game, scoring 39 of the total points to only 20 Wildcat bench points. Heidi Stuart scored four points, Washington posted seven and Gowans came through with 10, including the last bucket scored by either team to put the Vikings up for good. Spencer, a center, led all reserves with 18 points and eight rebounds. Normally effective scorers Petticrew, whose playing was hindered by the flu, and Hedgepeth were held to just 11 combined points.
“Jane Gowans was spectacular, and Carrie Spencer really stepped up on a night when they were focused on stopping Sarah Hedgepeth,” Wolfe said.
In addition, PSU dominated defensively, limiting the Wildcats to just a 37.5 field-goal percentage in the game. The Vikings shot 47.1 percent.
“Our team has found if they believe in themselves on the road, that will get them to the to,” Wolfe added.
Next up, PSU finishes up the regular season with home games against Montana State and Montana on Thursday and Saturday