Falcons grind out two on the road

The Seattle Pacific women’s basketball team has put itself back on track. After losing three straight home games a couple weeks ago, the Falcons have now won three straight games, including two on the road.
The team went on the road last week to Northwest Nazarene and Central Washington and took care of business, improving to 11-4 on the year, including 4-3 in the GNAC. But these road wins did not come easy.

Against NNU on Thursday, the Falcons had a 42-28 halftime lead, only to see the Crusaders come roaring back in the second half. With a little under nine minutes to go in the game, NNU had a 58-53 advantage.

This didn’t bode well for the Falcons, as they hadn’t won in Nampa, Idaho, since 2011. But the team kept fighting, with key contributions from freshman guard/forward Hannah Rodrigues, and wound up winning 82-77.

Rodrigues had a career high 10 points and forced a traveling call with 36 seconds left to help clinch the win against NNU. Then, against CWU, she had 9 points, 6 rebounds and added 2 clutch free throws with 13 seconds left.

“It’s been tough to step into this role with all the injuries,” Rodrigues said. “With the free throws, I just had to focus and regroup so that I could sink the shots.”

Against CWU last Saturday, the Falcons were holding on to a 65-63 lead with just 1:01 left in the game. In the final 13 seconds, Rodrigues and freshman guard Stacey Lukasiewicz were able to hit two free throws apiece to clinch the game and win 73-65.

Rodrigues and Lukasiewicz probably wouldn’t be playing as many minutes late in close games if it weren’t for injuries. Senior guard Aubree Callen tore her ACL early in the season and is done for the year. Senior guard Mechela Barnes is dealing with tendonitis. Sophomore forward Maddey Pflaumer is dealing with a concussion that keeps her sidelined on a day-to-day basis. The team has a lot of key injuries, but the freshmen are stepping up.

With all the injuries, the Falcons are not looking for excuses. The team is focusing on taking advantage of its opportunities and winning more games.

“We’re short on experience,” head coach Julie Heisey said. “Especially against NNU, both Stacey [Lukasiewicz] and Hannah [Rodrigues] have done a really good job, and they’re helping us win key games.”

The key in both of these games has been making clutch shots. That is no easy task when it is late in the game and while on the road. Junior guard Suzanna Ohlsen hit a three-pointer with about a minute left against NNU and followed that up by hitting two big free throws with 33 seconds left.

“We just had it in our minds that we are not going to lose these games,” Ohlsen said. “If you have that in your mentality, your actions are going to reflect what you believe in.”

The Falcons are utilizing everyone on the team to win these games, as well. The team is showing impressive depth at a key time in the season.

“We had to utilize every single player on the court, and it all came together when it really mattered,” Ohlsen said.

By winning both of these conference games, the team pulled within one game of first place in the GNAC. Alaska Anchorage, Montana State Billings, Saint Martin’s and Western Washington are all tied for first place in the GNAC right now, with each of them having a 5-2 conference record.

If it weren’t for depth, the Falcons probably wouldn’t find themselves so close in the hunt. It also sets up a very important game against Saint Martin’s Saturday at Royal Brougham.

The Falcons aim to keep it going at home this week as they also play Western Oregon on Thursday to go along with Saint Martin’s on Saturday. Both games start at 7 p.m.

This article was posted in the section Sports.