Two games with similar endings go down as losses for the NAU women’s basketball team this weekend. Portland State University, for the second-straight game, were able to turn their last possession into a two-point victory, despite the NAU defense shutting down Portland State for most of the second quarter.
The Lumberjacks and Vikings played a heart-pounding game Thursday night, where Portland State sophomore guard Jada Lewis was able to beat the buzzer and give the Vikings a win.
The game was originally scheduled for Saturday, but was pushed back due to weather conditions prior to the game. This set up a Sunday rematch on Valentine's Day, where the Lumberjacks looked to turn the table on the Vikings.
Senior forward Khiarica Rasheed was one of the key players in the late comeback on Thursday and she carried that momentum into Sunday's game, scoring six points as the Lumberjacks started the game with an 8-2 run, but those who watched the Thursday game knew that lead was not made to last.
Portland State battled back, going on a 7-0 run of their own and taking back the lead before the teams traded baskets for two minutes. Once again, the Lumberjacks caught fire on mid-range shooting, finishing the quarter up 20-13.
The Vikings put together a run and cut the Lumberjacks’ lead to as low as one before the teams settled into a defensive battle. The two teams only combined for three field goals the rest of the half. Portland State redshirt senior forward Tatiana Streun made the lone field goal for the Vikings, while Rasheed and junior guard Regan Schenck nailed two baskets in quick succession before the Lumberjacks went cold.
Still, NAU held a 27-24 lead at the end of the half. The Lumberjacks missed all six of their shots from 3-point range through two quarters, but made up for it in the mid-range game. The slump looked to be over in the second half, but the Lumberjacks did not find their first bucket of the half for almost five minutes. In that time, the Vikings scored eight unanswered, but like all leads in this series it would not last. The Lumberjacks had their own scoring run and the teams were battling again. NAU held the slight edge going into the fourth quarter, leading 41-39.
Portland State started the quarter with the hot hand, but as if on cue, the Lumberjacks got hot. In a team effort led by sophomore forward Emily Rodabaugh, the Lumberjacks went on a 13-0 run and took a 54-46 lead.
Again, the Vikings came storming back and brought the game within one point where it remained until there was less than 10 seconds to go.
Flashback to Thursday when the Lumberjacks found themselves in the same position, up by one with less than a minute to go and Portland State had the ball. Somehow, this game found a way to have an even more heartbreaking ending for NAU.
After receiving the inbound pass, junior guard Desirae Hansen could not find a teammate and had to put up a desperation 3-pointer that came up short, but then a whistle was blown.
Rasheed got caught under Hansen on the shot and fouled the shooter on her way down. With less than five seconds to go, Hansen was sent to the line where she nailed all three free throws. Once again, the Lumberjacks fell just short and went to Rasheed on the final possession who could not replicate her heroics from the Sacramento State game-winner Feb. 6. The Lumberjacks lost 58-56.
“We have to do a better job of managing the end of the game and playing with a lot more poise,” NAU head coach Loree Payne said. “We're looking at two games where we have the lead with under 20 seconds. We didn’t have solid defensive possessions when all we needed was one stop and to get the rebound.”
The loss puts the Lumberjacks at 9-11 with just four games to go in the season. Next week, the Lumberjacks face Weber State University in Flagstaff, where the Lumberjacks will hope to get back on track in the final two weeks of the season.