BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University women's basketball coach Carmen Dolfo knew she didn't need to set up a play in the closing seconds - with four seniors in her lineup, the best thing was to just let them play.
And play they did.
After giving up a game-tying bucket with 5.1 seconds left on the game clock Saturday, Jan. 12, in a battle between the final two remaining unbeaten teams in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play, Western senior center Britt Harris picked herself up off the Sam Carver Gymnasium Court and sprinted toward the Vikings' basket. Fellow senior guard Corinn Waltrip quickly brought the ball up the court, stumbled near the foul line and fed Harris for a lay-in at the buzzer, as No. 11 Western beat No. 7 Simon Fraser 59-57.
"We didn't set anything up," Harris said of the play. "I just saw there were a few more seconds on the clock, and I ran as hard as I could. I saw Corinn working the ball up the court, and she got it to me. It was just amazing."
Not bad for a play that "just happened," according to Harris, who finished with a team-high 14 points and seven rebounds.
Nothing was set up during a Simon Fraser timeout with 8 seconds remaining in regulation and Western clinging to a 57-55 lead, which Harris also provided on a short, baseline jumper off a beautiful one-touch pass from Trishi Williams with 13.8 seconds to play.
Nayo Raincock-Ekunwe erased the advantage after the timeout, when she took advantage of Harris' fall on a pass into the post on right side from Meg Wilson. Raincock-Ekunwe turned and drove to the bucket to tie the game with 5.1 seconds remaining.
But there was no way, Dolfo said, that she was going to take a timeout to set up a response.
"I had my seniors on the court," Dolfo said. "They know what they're supposed to do. ... There was no way I wanted a timeout there to give them a chance to set up defensively."
The Vikings' seniors and Dolfo certainly looked brilliant after that decision.
Of course, a last-second win always looks good. With the win, No. 11 Western (11-2, 5-0 GNAC) is the lone remaining unbeaten team in conference play, as the Vikings stretched their win streak to five straight.
"They're a good team," Dolfo said. "We got lucky to get this one, especially after the way we played in the first half."
The first half was indeed one that the Vikings would like to forget, as they had more turnovers (14) than field goals (nine).
The result was a 29-23 halftime deficit.
"I don't know why, but we came out tentative," Dolfo said.
But that started to change early in the second half.
A 3-pointer from Katie Colard - her third of the game - with 16:55 to play, ignited an 11-0 Western run over the next three-plus minutes to turn a 34-28 deficit into a 39-34 lead.
After Collard's 3-pointer, Western did a good job of working the ball into the post. Harris scored six points during the run off assists from Waltrip, Colard and Williams, and fellow post Kayla Bernsen added another bucket off a good feed from Waltrip, who finished with a team-high seven assists.
Harris repeatedly did a good job of getting behind Raincock-Ekunwe to provide an open target and a clear path the basket.
"I had to stop playing like a wuss," said Harris, who scored 12 points in the second half. "In the first half, I was giving in to them. During the second half I started to fight for it a little more."
The Clan (11-2, 4-1) answered the challenge from Harris and the Vikings, though, as Simon Fraser slowly surged back and reclaimed the lead at 51-49 on a 3-pointer from Kia Van Laare with 5:01 to play and increased the lead to four points on a pair of Raincock-Ekunwe free throws 58 seconds later.
It was Western's turn to come back, and the Vikings responded with a pair of free throws from Sarah Hill and a Williams steal and lay-up on consecutive possessions to knot the score at 53 with 1:50 to play.
The game was tied again at 55 with 41.4 seconds to play after Hill and Raincock-Ekunwe traded points in the paint.
The Vikings regained the lead when Williams received a cross-court pass and whipped it to Harris for her short jumper, setting up Raincock-Ekunwe's game-tying basket at the other end and eventually Waltrip's and Harris' last-second heroics.
"I thought Corinn was going to take it the entire way, but they picked her up," Dolfo said of the game-winning play. "She made a real heads-up play finding Britt. ... It was amazing watching Britt go down at the other end of the court, pick herself up and get down the court that fast. She showed some real determination."
Harris was joined in double figures by Williams with 12, Colard with 11 and Hill with 10. Williams also pulled down a team-high eight rebounds.
Raincock-Ekunwe, who entered the game second in the conference in scoring at 16.4 points per game, was relatively quiet offensively through most of the game, as her two buckets in the final minute gave her 14 for the game. But where she certainly was not silent was on the glass, where she improved upon her conference leading 12.8 rebounds per game by pulling down 21 on Saturday. She improved her GNAC record to 52 games recording a double-double.
"I couldn't believe it - (Clan coach) Bruce (Langford) came up to me and said, 'You did a pretty good job on Nayo,'" Dolfo said. "I was like, 'Really?' She is so big and so active on the boards, she's tough to stop. She just killed us on the boards."
Despite the big night from the Clan's standout senior forward, WWU only lost the rebounding battle 33-32.
The Vikings also won the battle in the paint 34-26.
"I think we played together as a team inside," Harris said. "Sarah and Trishi and Kayla, we all worked together and battled, and it worked out well for us."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
WESTERN WASHINGTON 59, SIMON FRASER 57
SIMON FRASER (11-1, 4-1 GNAC)
Raincock-Ekunwe, Nayo 5-10 4-4 14; Collins,Kristina 5-12 1-1 13; Chambers, Erin 4-11 0-0 11; Lowen,Katie 3-12 0-0 6; Wyman, Carla 2-4 0-2 6; Van Laare, Kia 1-1 0-0 3; Wilson, Meg 1-1 0-0 2; Petit, Marie-Line 1-1 0-0 2; Langmead, Rebecca 0-0 0-0 0; Reist, Chelsea 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 22-52 5-7 57.
WESTERN WASHINGTON (10-2, 5-0 GNAC)
Harris, Britt 7-12 0-0 14; Williams, Trishi 5-12 2-3 12; Colard, Katie 4-9 0-0 11; Hill, Sarah 3-6 3-4 10; Bernsen, Kayla 2-3 0-0 4; Pounds, Marcel 1-5 0-0 3; White, Jenni 1-2 0-0 3; Waltrip, Corinn 1-8 0-0 2; Donaldson, Sydney 0-3 0-0 0; Hathaway, Aleisha 0-0 0-0 0; Ramstead, Erika 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 24-60 5-7 59.
Halftime score: Simon Fraser 29, Western 23
3-point goals: SFU 8-22 (Chambers,Erin 3-8; Wyman,Carla 2-2; Collins,Kristina 2-6; Van Laare,Kia 1-1; Lowen,Katie 0-5), WWU 6-18 (Colard,Katie 3-7; Hill,Sarah 1-1; White,Jenni 1-2; Pounds,Marcel 1-4; Waltrip,Corinn 0-4). Fouled out: SFU None, WWU None. Rebounds: SFU 33 (Raincock-Ekunwe,Nayo 21), WWU 32 (Williams,Trishi 8). Assists: SFU 16 (Collins,Kristina 7), WWU 17 (Waltrip,Corinn 7). Total fouls: SFU 11, WWU 11. Technical fouls: SFU None, WWU None. A: 694
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.