Eastern Washington women lose to Portland State in Big Sky semifinals

PORTLAND – It took the Portland State Vikings 20 minutes to find their shot on Friday night in the semifinals of the Big Sky conference women’s basketball tournament against the sixth-seeded Eastern Washington Eagles.

The top-seeded Vikings shot 68 percent during the second half, propelling them to a 73-62 victory and into the tournament championship game for the third straight year. Portland State (20-10) moves on to face No. 4 Montana.

The game was tied at intermission and the score remained close over the opening minutes of the second period. Not until Courtney VanBrocklin hit a jumper with 14:17 remaining did the Vikings start to find their rhythm. VanBrocklin’s basket made it 42-39, and just more than 3 minutes later, the Vikings found themselves up 50-40 after VanBrocklin made a pair of free throws.

Eastern Washington wasn’t done, though. After Portland State went up 52-43 on a VanBrocklin basket with 9:37 left, the Eagles rallied to get within 55-52, all in less than two minutes. Brianne Ryan scored five points and Chene Cooper had four during the Eagles’ run.

The Vikings started to earn some breathing room after Kelli Valentine (Mead High) made a shot in the paint, got fouled, and sank the ensuing free throw. With 5:56 left, Big Sky MVP Eryn Jones hit a 3 from the right wing, putting the Vikings up 63-54.

From there, the Eagles never got closer then seven points.

“Portland State really fought for 40 minutes,” EWU coach Wendy Schuller said. “They went out like a team that wanted to play in the championship game.”

Valentine scored 14 points and Lexi Bishop (Shadle Park) 11 for PSU.

Montana 55, Northern Colorado 46: Katie Baker (Lake City High) came off the bench to score 16 points as the Grizzlies (17-14) defeated the Bears (17-13) in the evening’s first semifinal.

Stephanie Stender added 11 points and grabbed a game-high 10 rebounds for the Grizzlies.

Montana, which stymied Northern Colorado with its 2-3 zone defense, led 25-20 at the half and took advantage of poor shooting by the Bears, who were 18 of 52 from the field. UNC forced 24 turnovers with a full-court press defense, but it wasn’t enough to stop Montana.

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