In a battle of Big Sky Conference unbeaten women’s basketball teams, Eastern Washington started strong Thursday night and finished stronger in an 81-69 drubbing of Montana State.
Hayley Hodgins hit her first 3-pointer and another at the buzzer at the end of the first quarter to fuel the biggest offensive night of her career. The senior guard scored 34 points to lead all scorers.
“When she shoots like that, it’s fun for me to watch,” coach Wendy Schuller said of Hodgins. “I’m blessed to be able to coach her. But everybody just filled their roles and played their tails off.”
Hodgins, whose previous high was 30 points, scored inside and out and helped the Eagles shoot a blistering 60 percent from the floor, including 6 of 11 from beyond the arc, in the first half.
For the game, Hodgins hit 13 of 19 shots and was 6 of 8 from 3-point range for Eastern (12-6, 6-0 Big Sky), which is now the only unbeaten team in conference play.
“I just do whatever I can do for the team,” Hodgins said, “and tonight was unlike any other I’ve had.”
Eastern raced to an 8-4 lead before the Bobcats scratched back into the game with a 3-pointer from Riley Nordgaard to make the score 10-9.
The teams traded the lead several times before Hodgins hit a dagger of a 3-pointer as the buzzer sounded for the first quarter to give Eastern a 24-22 lead.
The Eagles scored the first seven points of the second quarter to take a 31-22 lead. Delaney Hodgins pushed the lead to 16 points with a free throw before the Bobcats made a 7-0 run to stay within reach.
The Eagles went into the break with a 44-33 lead and stretched the advantage to 62-50 by the end of the third quarter.
Eastern’s Tisha Phillips made a steal and scored on a fast break to push the lead to 17 at 81-64 with 50 seconds left and that was it for Montana State (13-5, 6-1).
“I think that’s really important,” Hodgins said, “because we have struggled to keep leads. But we got stops, made baskets and stretched it out again.”
Phillips and Delaney Hodgins both scored 13 points. Ashli Payne added seven points and grabbed 12 rebounds.
The Bobcats had four players score in double figures, led by the 19 from Jasmine Hommes. Lindsay Stockton (Gonzaga Prep) scored 12 and led Montana State with five assists.
The Eagles return to Reese Court on Saturday at 2 p.m. to take on Montana.
“The Montana games are always huge, no matter what our records are,” Hodgins said. “But this game really made a statement for us. It really shows what we can do.”
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