BELLINGHAM - Western Washington University's quality proved to trump Central Washington University's quantity.
The in-state rivalry between the Vikings' women's basketball team and the Wildcats' included 11 ties and 11 lead changes, but at the end WWU was able to hold CWU to 23 of 61 from the field, pulling out a 71-64 win on Thursday, Jan. 9, at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
Sydney Donaldson led the Vikings with 21 points on 8 of 10 from the field, and Katie Colard was a perfect 11 for 11 from the line to round out her 16-point night. Donaldson also added nine rebounds and five assists in helping WWU get back to .500 (6-6 overall, 2-2 in Great Northwest Athletic Conference play).
"This is her best game that she has had this year," WWU coach Carmen Dolfo said of Donaldson. "She was focused and she wanted it. She has kind of struggled on and off this year, so we're hoping this was a really good break-out game for her."
Jenni White was the only other Viking to score in double figures with 10 points and a game-high three steals, including a late one that helped seal the win. Jessica VanDyke led CWU with 17 points, although it took 17 shots from the field to reach that mark.
The tense battle between two teams in the middle of the pack in the GNAC persisted throughout much of the second quarter, with CWU forcing WWU into turnovers on its first two possessions and taking a 35-34 lead. The Wildcats would see their lead grow to as much as 43-39 after a 3-pointer by VanDyke, but in keeping with the pace of the game, White forced a turnover and leaked out in transition where Donaldson hit her for a fast-break layup.
CWU would again see its lead grow to 47-43, but a layup by Taylor Peacocke foreshadowed an at-that-point dormant Colard. Colard converted a free throw after getting fouled while making a layup, tying the game at 48-48 with 10:27 left in the second half. On the Vikings' next possession Colard hit a 3-pointer which she then followed up with a pair of free throws capping an 8-0 run by the junior guard.
The Wildcats, as they did all night, continued to pound the offensive glass, leading to three consecutive possessions where they got second-chance points off of loose rebounds. The wincing and frustration from WWU's bench was prevalent as CWU finished the game with a 39-31 advantage in rebounds, including pulling down 18 on the offensive end.
"One of our biggest focuses and struggles right now is blocking out defensively," Donaldson said. "They got a ton of offensive boards. We need to eliminate that and we would have won by a little more."
A put-back layup by local product Erika Locker from Ferndale gave CWU a 60-58 advantage, but Marcel Pounds evened the game up at 60-apiece on an acrobatic finish near the rim. Pounds ended the game with four points in 17 minutes off the bench.
WWU would finish the game on an 11-4 run which was sparked by a baseline jumper from Donaldson and then a quick, no-look pass from her to post Sarah Hill for a layup on the next possession. Both Colard and White hit late free throws to secure the win.
"That second half we really fought, and then in the last couple minutes we were getting those loose boards and we were going harder," said Donaldson, who recorded a key late block and rebound with the Vikings holding a 64-60 lead.
Much of WWU's starting lineup is new this year, and its inexperience in late-game situations is something Dolfo said her team has struggled in thus far this season. Against CWU, she saw her team take a big step forward in that regard.
"I was really happy with our players, who I thought at the end were really composed and made good decisions," Dolfo said. "I just think we've struggled with that at the end of games, and I just thought we did a good job when the pressure was on."
The Vikings scored on six of their final seven possessions, and didn't allow an offensive rebound in the final 4:42 of the game.
Reach Alex Bigelow at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-15-2238. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for other Whatcom County sports updates.
WESTERN WASHINGTON 71, CENTRAL WASHINGTON 64
CENTRAL WASHINGTON (5-8, 0-5 GNAC)
VanDyke,Jessica 6-17 4-8 17; Johnson,Courtney 5-9 3-4 14; Schmitt,Ally 3-9 3-4 9; Moser,Amber 3-6 2-4 8; Kramer,Mollie 2-6 2-2 6; Locker,Erika 2-4 0-0 5; Parker,Jasmine 2-7 1-2 5; Matheson,India 0-1 0-0 0; Burke,Daisy 0-2 0-0 0. Totals 23-61 15-24 64.
WESTERN WASHINGTON (6-6, 2-2 GNAC)
Donaldson,Sydney 8-10 4-6 21; Colard,Katie 2-9 11-11 16; White,Jenni 4-8 2-2 10; Briggs,Tia 4-8 0-2 8; Hill,Sarah 3-5 2-3 8; Pounds,Marcel 2-5 0-0 4; Peacocke,Taylor 2-5 0-0 4; Gandy,Kiana 0-2 0-0 0; Albert,Rachel 0-0 0-0 0. Totals 25-52 19-24 71.
Half: WWU 32, CWU 31
3-point goals--Central Washington 3-12 (Locker,Erika 1-1; Johnson,Courtney 1-3; VanDyke,Jessica 1-6; Kramer,Mollie 0-1; Schmitt,Ally 0-1), Western Washington 2-7 (Donaldson,Sydney 1-1; Colard,Katie 1-4; Pounds,Marcel 0-2). Fouled out--Central Washington-None, Western Washington-None. Rebounds--Central Washington 39 (VanDyke,Jessica 10), Western Washington 31 (Donaldson,Sydney 9). Assists--Central Washington 12 (Locker,Erika 4), Western Washington 12 (Donaldson,Sydney 5). Total fouls--Central Washington 21, Western Washington 16. Technical fouls--Central Washington-None, Western Washington-None. A-794