Kelsey Rogers goes hard to the rim against top-ranked Northwest Nazarene University. // Photo by Oliver Hamlin
By Mitch Farley
It was a back-to-back night on Thursday, Jan. 24 for Western basketball. Both the men’s and women’s teams played games at Sam Carver Gymnasium.
The competition was as tough as it gets as the women’s team fell to Northwest Nazarene University, who are ranked first place nationally in Division II women’s basketball. The game ended 86-73 in the Nighthawks’ favor.
Starting from the tip off the Vikings’ offense struggled to stay with their high-energy opponents. The Nighthawks started the game with a full-court press and the Vikings had difficulty keeping control of the ball, committing 15 turnovers in the first half.
Junior guard Lexie Bland and sophomore guard Emma Duff led the Vikings’ offensive efforts. Bland had 12 points on the night and managed to consistently break down the Nighthawks’ press. Duff led the team in scoring with 19 points.
The Vikings were a bit taken aback by the Nighthawks’ immediate intensity and press, quickly falling to a 8-0 deficit in the first two minutes.
They picked up the pace after halftime, coming out of the locker room in a press of their own. The press certainly helped put pressure on the Nighthawks in the second half, but the Vikings couldn’t overcome the 16-point deficit as the top-ranked Nighthawks held strongly to their lead.
It was a whistle-sensitive night with 30 fouls committed by the Vikings. They managed to take care of the ball better in the second half, but still had an unusual 24 turnovers in the game.
Overall the Vikings played the toughest team in the league and fared relatively well. The Nighthawks have yet to be played that tough by anyone in conference this season;the loss by 13 was the closest in-conference game of the season for the Nighthawks.
The Vikings’ next game will be Saturday, Jan. 26 at home against eighth-ranked Central Washington University.
The men’s team played an exciting neck-and-neck game against last place Alaska Fairbanks University following the women’s defeat. The Vikings prevailed, adding a 70-62 victory to their season record.
The Vikings came out strong with senior guard Tyler Payne, who scored 15 points in the game, at point. Meanwhile junior forward Trevor Jasinsky continued his season-long scoring campaign, coming out wet and scoring 13 points in the first half.
The last-place Nanooks put up a fight against the seventh-ranked Vikings with junior forward Michael Kluting holding it down for the Nanooks under the basket. The Vikings switched things up, going into a press in the second half to put some due pressure on the Nanooks’ offense.
Freshman guard Jalen Green was a big help to the Vikings’ efforts with strong defense and 10 rebounds. Green also had 15 points on the night, making him the only Viking of the night to chalk up a double-double.
Junior guard Tucker Eenigenburg also came out firing after the break, hitting both of his shots for the game in the second half. First he nailed a big 3-pointer, then drove into the key for a soaring jumper a few possessions later.
Payne held strong at point guard throughout the game, keeping the Nanooks guessing with his ball distribution. Payne finished with five assists in addition to his 15 points.
Jasinsky continued to put up points in the second half as well. He hit 64.2 percent of his shots in the game, and that dead-eye shooting resulted in 23 points to go with his three steals.
Sophomore forward Braden Ahlemeyer also made vital contributions to the team’s efforts. He came in clutch for the Vikings in the second half by putting some much-needed tough defense on Nanooks’ leading scorer, Kluting. Those efforts kept Kluting from scoring from anywhere except the free throw line for the final 6:30 of the game.
The Vikings’ next game will be against Alaska Anchorage on Saturday, Jan. 26 at home.