CHENEY - With its most dominant performance of the season, the Eastern Washington University women’s basketball team clinched a bid to the 2013 Big Sky Conference tournament, and secured the coveted Dam Cup for EWU for the 2012-13 season.
Behind a career-high 24 points from redshirt-freshman Hayley Hodgins (Pasco, Wash.), the Eagles cruised past Portland State, 83-51, on Thursday (Feb. 21) at Reese Court in Cheney, Wash.
Improving to 11-5 in conference play and 15-10 overall, the Eagles have secured a spot in postseason tourney, held March 13-16 at the site of the regular-season champion. Eastern is currently in third place in the Big Sky standings - just two games behind league leaders Montana (13-3) and Northern Colorado (13-3).
The Eagles converted on eight of its first 10 shots in the game, while Hodgins did not miss a single field goal until 58 seconds remained in the first half.
Within the first six minutes of the big rivalry game, EWU had earned double-digit lead on PSU, and the home team never relinquished it the rest of the way.
After hitting her first seven-consecutive shots, including three 3-pointers, Hodgins went into the locker room with 20 first-half points, almost half of the team's season-high first-half total of 46.
As a team, the Eagles shot 60 percent from the field in the opening period, while holding the Vikings to 21.2 percent. EWU also had a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers within the first 20 minutes, and finished the game with a 25-0 margin.
“We really wanted to push the ball in transition,” said EWU head coach Wendy Schuller. “We thought coming in that transition ball would be the key. We needed to be able to run, and play transition defense. I thought we did that early on, and we did a good job of moving and sharing the ball. Hayley got hot, and was knocking down everything. So when you have someone doing that, it always helps."
Although EWU cooled off in the second half, converting just 11-of-31 shots, the first-half hole was simply too big for PSU to overcome. The Vikings finished the game at 29.5 percent from the field, with just 3-of-15 made from beyond the arc. Eastern had an 18-8 advantage in assists and converted 18-of-21 free throws, compared to 12-of-22 for PSU.
Hodgins played just eight minutes in the second half, but was able to tally four more points, as she finished with a career-high 24 on the night, which marked an individual season-high for the Eags. Hodgins also posted a career-high four assists.
“Hayley was great,” said Schuller. “I think what she did best to get going was shooting layups. She got some early buckets inside to get her confidence going, and then took some good, wide-open shots from three. With that confidence, she was then able to make a couple tough ones as well.”
Three other Eagles scored in double figures, including sophomore guard Lexie Nelson, who had 14 points with three made 3-pointers. Juniors Laura Hughes and Chenise Pakootas contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.
Sophomore Melissa Williams led EWU on the glass with nine rebounds, while senior Carrie Ojeda was just shy of a double-double, as she finished with nine points and eight boards.
For the first time since its inception in 2010-11, the Eagles won the friendly rivalry series over Portland State by a score of 10-7. The women’s basketball team accounted for four of those points, as it actually swept the regular-season series against PSU for the first time since 2004-05.
“It’s a nice rivalry that we have going with Portland State,” said Schuller. “We just wanted to hold up our end of the deal. I knew football took care of things, and we knew it was on our shoulders tonight, so I’m glad we did it.”
The five sports competing for the Dam Cup are football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. The Dam Cup is based on a point system for regular-season contests between the two schools. The annual football game is worth four points, the women's soccer match is worth one point, each women's volleyball match is worth two points for a total of four points possible, and each men's and women's basketball game is worth two points for a total of four points possible in each sport.
With a win in football this year, and one each for Eastern’s men’s and women’s basketball teams, the Eagles had a slight 8-7 lead coming into Thursday's contest, but it all came down to this final game. Eastern will now possess The Dam Cup Trophy for the following year, acknowledging the achievement of the 2012-13 season.