Portland, Ore. – Senior Aubrey Ashenfelter came up with huge plays on both ends of the floor late in the game, propelling the Eastern Washington women's basketball team to a key Big Sky road win over Portland State, 61-60, on Monday, Feb. 24, at the Stott Center.
After leading by as many as 12 points in the first half, Eastern (14-11, 10-6 Big Sky) found itself down one, 60-59, with 37 seconds left. Portland State (6-19, 4-12) called timeout to set up a final play, but Ashenfelter rejected Delanie Parry's three-point attempt back into EWU's half of the court, chasing down the loose ball before laying it in with five seconds remaining.
The Vikings managed to break Eastern's press but Emily Easom's three-point attempt from NBA range was off the mark as time expired.
"I'm really proud of our kids for being resilient and finding a way to win," head coach Wendy Schuller said. "I'm also really happy for Aubrey. For her to come back to her hometown and make the plays that she did, and that it was her last opportunity to do so. We just talked about being aggressive and making a play on that defensive possession, and Aubrey really took that to heart."
Redshirt sophomore Hayley Hodgins led all scorers with 17 points, knocking down three three-pointers. Ashenfelter and junior Lexie Nelson added 11 points apiece while freshman Jade Redmon chipped in 10 points.
Ashenfelter pulled down a game-high nine rebounds, narrowly missing out on her fifth career double-double. Junior Melissa Williams added seven boards to go along with six points.
Redmon dished out a team-best four assists while Hodgins and Ashenfelter each picked up a pair of steals.
Eastern shot 42 percent from the field on the night but made just five of 21 three-pointers. The Eagles limited Portland State to 35 percent shooting, including a 23-percent clip in the first half, but the Vikings managed to drain 13 of their 15 free throw attempts to keep the game close down the stretch.
"I thought in the first half, we were the more physical team," Schuller said. "We communicated well and were active. We got a little too passive in the second half, but credit to Portland State for fighting back. We were able to get a few stops down the stretch that gave us a chance to win it late."
The Vikings opened the scoring with a three-pointer from the top of the key, but Ashenfelter both started and capped a 9-0 run for the Eagles, burying a three-pointer to tie the score before going coast to coast to put EWU up six, 9-3, just five minutes into the game.
After PSU pulled to within two, 11-9, Eastern scored eight of the next 10 points, getting buckets from four different players to open up an eight-point advantage, 19-11, with 7:56 on the clock. EWU would open up a 10-point lead, 24-14, on an offensive rebound put-back from Redmon with a little over three minutes left before a pair of free throws from Nelson put Eastern up 12, 26-14, at the 1:48 mark.
The Vikings started the second half strong, cutting Eastern's lead to five, 32-27, with 16:53 remaining. Hodgins connected on a three-pointer from Nelson to restore an eight-point lead but Allie Brock finished inside for PSU, keeping the Vikings within striking distance, 35-29, at the 14:42 mark.
Portland State kept coming, using a three-point play from Easom to cut Eastern's lead to one, 35-34, with 13:15 on the clock. After a jumper from Parry kept PSU close, Hodgins knocked down a three-pointer from the corner before Hughes hit a turn-around jumper, giving the Eagles a 44-38 lead with a little more than 10 minutes left. The Vikings used another run to crawl back to within two, 48-46, before McFadden tied it up with a pair of free throws at the 7:43 mark. Two minutes later, PSU took its first lead since early in the game on two more free throws, but buckets from Nelson and Redmon put EWU back on top, 52-50, with 4:56 remaining.
After Portland State answered with a jumper to regain the lead, Hodgins put Eastern back up one, 55-54, on a three-pointer from Redmon. Kate Lanz gave the Vikings back the lead on their next trip down the court before McFadden converted two more free throws with 1:30 remaining to give PSU a three-point advantage, 58-55.
Williams scored the next two baskets for the Eagles to bring Eastern to within one, 60-59, forcing Portland State to call timeout with 33 seconds left. After nearly turning the ball over at midcourt, the Vikings managed to find an open player at the top of the key, but Ashenfelter came up with the game-changing block, recovering her own rejection and laying it in on the other end with five seconds left to give Eastern a 61-60 advantage.
Portland State outrebounded Eastern, 40-36, but both teams managed 10 second chance points despite the Vikings' 16 offensive rebounds.
EWU turned the ball over 11 times to PSU's 10.
McFadden and Mikaela Rivard led Portland State with 13 points apiece while Parry added 12.
Eastern closes out its 2013-14 home slate with a pair of home games this week, beginning with a conference tilt against Northern Colorado at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 27.