February 28, 2013 | Vol. 116 -- No. 45

Eastern women get dominating win over PSU

Freshman Hodgkins leads way in 83-51 win with career high 24 points

Fresh from their most dominating performance of the season in an 83-51 Big Sky Conference women’s basketball win over Portland State last Thursday at Reese Court, Eastern Washington hopes to carry forward momentum earned from two straight wins on the road this week.

Hayley Hodgins

Paced by a career high 24 points from freshman Hayley Hodgins, the Eagles clinched a spot in the 2013 conference tournament and helped Eastern claim the Dam Cup competition between EWU and PSU.

Eastern (11-5 Big Sky, 15-10 overall) visits Northern Colorado (13-4, 16-10) tonight (Thursday, Feb. 28) and is at North Dakota (6-12, 11-16) Saturday at noon. The Eagles trail league-leading Montana (13-3) by two games with four to play. The tournament host role goes to the eventual first place finisher.

“We’re jockeying with Northern Colorado right now, especially for seeding purposes in the tournament and North Dakota is a team that’s fighting for a playoff spot right now,” Schuller said. “We know we’re going to have our hands full.” The Bears come into the game after a 73-57 loss at home to Southern Utah last Saturday

It’s a somewhat similar scenario to last year at this time when Eastern had momentum as they headed to Greeley. This year, however, the winning streak is less gaudy.

“Probably the biggest thing for us is you can think back to last year in the month of February, down the stretch, and for us we want to be playing our best basketball this time of year,” Schuller said. She was alluding to her team starting February of 2012 off with three straight wins, ­ part of a six-game streak that pushed the Eagles into second place in conference standings.

But their trip to face Northern Colorado began a five game losing streak that eventually knocked Eastern out of the tournament in the first round.

The trip east is one of the longer journeys Eastern will take. “We’re getting our road warrior suits on and getting ready to go,” Schuller said.

Thursday night the Eagles – and Hodgins – started hot. As a team the Eagles converted on eight of their first 10 shots.

And Hodgins was perfect until her first miss with 58 seconds left in the first half. She finished the half with 20 points. The Pasco native hit her first field goal 23 seconds into the contest to give the Eagles a lead they would never relinquish. Portland State did have one tie, 2-2 with 57 seconds gone in the half.

“Hayley was great,” Schuller said. “I think what she did best to get going was shooting layups. She got some early buckets inside to get her confidence going, and then took some good, wide-open shots from three.”

Three other Eagles scored in double figures, including sophomore guard Lexie Nelson with 14 points with three made 3-pointers. Juniors Laura Hughes added 12 and Chenise Pakootas 10.

As a team, the Eagles shot 60 percent from the field in the opening 20 minutes, while holding the Vikings to just 21.2 percent. Eastern dominated with a 17-0 advantage in points off turnovers in the first 20 minutes, finishing the game with a 25-0 margin.

The Eagles secured the Dam Cup Trophy for Eastern with the win. The five sports competing for the Dam Cup are football, women's soccer, women's volleyball, and men’s and women’s basketball. This Eastern’s first win in the three-year history of the competition.

“It’s a nice rivalry that we have going with Portland State,” Schuller said. “We just wanted to hold up our end of the deal. I knew football took care of things, and we knew it was on our shoulders tonight, so I’m glad we did it.”

Eastern closes out its regular season March 7 hosting Idaho State and March 9 when Weber State visits on Senior Night.

Paul Delaney can be reached at pdelaney@cheneyfreepress.com.

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