By Samuel Biehn
Western women’s basketball used a strong fourth quarter performance Tuesday night against Great Northwest Athletic Conference opponent Simon Fraser to seal a 74-60 win over the Clan at Carver Gym.
It’s the Vikings’ first conference win for the season. Western now stands at 4-3 overall, and 1-0 in GNAC play.
“It definitely gives us a spark,” Western guard Gracie Castaneda said. “Every game we are getting better, we have so much potential and so much more to build off of and I think we’ll do great [the rest of the season].”
Castaneda led the Vikings on offense for the night, finishing the game with 18 points, setting a new career high for the redshirt freshman.
The Vikings also received a strong performance on the boards from center Anna Schweke, who finished the game with 17 rebounds, the third most in Western’s History.
The Vikings started strong against the Clan in the first quarter, jumping out quickly to a 23-13 lead.
However, Simon Fraser fought back from the first quarter deficit, as the Clan put defensive pressure back on the Vikings, which kept Western’s lead at single digits at halftime, 36-30.
“For a split second we lost our [mentality,]” Vikings guard Lexie Bland said.
Even though the team’s mental toughness was tested, the Vikings pressed on.
Following the third quarter where the Clan trimmed the Vikings lead to 49-48, Western fought back to close out Simon Fraser in the fourth quarter.
Vikings forward-center Hannah Stipanovich said the team knew they were taking the upper hand.
“You could see Simon [Fraser] falling apart, starting to foul more,” Stipanovich said. “We just stayed calm, focused on stops on defense and that’s what got us going again.”
Castaneda said the Vikings had to make the appropriate changes on defense which helped them adjust.
“Their posts were getting hot at one point,” Castaneda said. “Us guards were trying to help more on our posts and dig in more. But they were also great three-point shooters so we shaded more to our shooters, and didn’t allow any open threes.”
Western went on to outscore the Clan 25-12 in the final quarter, thwarting any kind of comeback plans from Simon Fraser.
“It was just defensive stops, and digging deeper,” Bland said. “Finding that last little push to pressure Simon Fraser, get them frazzled and then we get all the momentum on our side and then we’re able to go off on offense.”
Bland, who played physical on the court and at different points diving for the ball, said she tries to provide a spark for the team when they need it.
“I think that the most influential way to get people fired up is leading by example,” Bland said. “Showing people that if you’re doing something they can join in.”
Stipanovich said that being ranked below Simon Fraser before the season began also helped motivate the Vikings to a key early conference victory.
Moving forward, Stipanovich said the team will remember this win going forward to give the Vikings confidence.
“We really wanted to beat [Simon Fraser],” Stipanovich said. “Just prove something. We’re a young team, we have nothing to lose, we’re getting better every game. We’re learning every single game. It was really exciting just to have that first conference win under our belt, going into the season I think that just gives us a lot of hope.”
Vikings Head Coach Carmen Dolfo was unavailable for comment on this story.
The Vikings go on the road in their next game at 7 p.m. on Nov. 30, playing at Montana State University Billings.