March 1, 2008
The Eastern Washington University women's basketball team stayed right with Portland State, a team which is tied for second in the league standings, before the Vikings were able to escape Cheney with a 75-71 Big Sky Conference win on Saturday afternoon (March 1).
"We put ourselves in a position to have an opportunity to win the game," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "We had shots to win and shots didn't go in. That's basketball. That's what I explained to them. It's extremely disappointing, but I thought our effort was good and we did a lot of things well. I thought we played as well as we had in a long time, and it stinks because if a shot goes in here or a shot goes in there, then our emotions are totally different."
Portland State had held Eastern to its breaking point, holding a 52-42 lead with 10 minutes to play, before the Eagles roared back with nine straight points to trail by a slim 52-51 margin with 8:13 to play. Tatjana Sparavalo capped off that run with an old-fashioned three-point play, while Sydney Benson had two baskets to ignite the spurt.
Nicole Scott, who had been nailing shots from the outside all day, would nail another three with 6:29 to go to give Eastern its first lead of the game, 59-57.
The Vikings (20-7, 10-4 BSC) went up 67-61 with 4:03 to play, as well as 73-67 with 2:43 on the clock, before Eastern went on one more clutch run. A lay-up by Jessica Huntington was followed by one from Kyla Evans to move the Eagles to within two at 73-71 with 1:42 showing on the scoreboard.
After Scott and Benson blocked back-to-back Viking shots three seconds apart, Benson grabbed the board with 42 seconds to go. A missed Scott shot was followed by three Eagle fouls (Eastern had just four team fouls at that point) before PSU's Claire Faucher made 1-of-2 from the line.
With Portland State up 74-71 with 19 seconds to play and Benson having grabbed the defensive reboard, Evans missed a three with five seconds to go before the Vikings grabbed the carom and ran the clock down to 0.5 seconds left before Eastern was able to foul.
Even though Portland State had held the lead the entire first half, the Eagles (4-23, 1-13 BSC) kept it close throughout the stanza, never trailing by more than nine points (and responding to that 16-7 deficit with eight straight points to make it 16-15).
With 11 helpers today, Huntington compiled the highest Eagle assist total since Michelle Demetruk tallied 11, also against the Vikings, on Jan. 25, 2003. The sophomore had a perfect 5-of-5 shooting day from the floor to score 11 points and record her first career double-double. She is also the initial Eagle to nail 100 percent of her shot attempts (minimum of five) since Felice Moore nailed all six of her shots against Montana State on March 6, 2004.
Scott nailed 5-of-8 of her three-point attempts today (8-of-17 overall) to finish with 21 points, the fourth-highest total by an Eastern player so far this year. She also had 10 rebounds to record her fourth double-double of the season, and she blocked five shot attempts for the third straight game. That total is a career high for the sophomore and an Eagle season-high total.
Benson nailed 7-of-9 shots today to finish with 15 points. She also contributed nine rebounds to Eastern's effort. Sparavalo had a good day, as well, as she had 10 points.
The Eagles also played well in closing down Kelsey Kahle, who had scored 29 points on 11-of-12 shooting in Portland State's 77-56 win on Jan. 26. Today, she had 10 tallies on 4-of-9 shooting.
"We did a really good job defensively on her," Schuller said.
The game was as close in the major statistical categories as it was on the scoreboard. Portland State shot 46.8 percent from the floor (29-of-62), while Eastern Washington made 46.2 percent of its shot attempts (30-of-65). The Eagles held a narrow 38-37 rebounding advantage in the contest.
The Eagles will wrap up the 2007-08 season at home next week, playing first-place Montana at 7:05 p.m. on Thursday (March 6) before taking on Montana State at 2:05 p.m. on Saturday (March 8). With a win Thursday, the Eagles would keep the Lady Griz (22-5, 12-2 BSC) from clinching the outright regular-season title and the right to host the 2008 Big Sky Championship.