Women’s basketball earns first road win on late shot
Junior guard Amy Patton, the Lumberjacks leading scorer with 14 points a game, scored a season-high 28 in Ogden, Utah against the Big Sky Conference’s last place team, the Weber State Wildcats; and the Lumberjacks needed every one of them.
Patton grabbed a tipped ball on a Wildcats’ inbound play and laid it in with nine seconds left in the game for her final two points, as the Lumberjacks (8–17, 3–10 BSC) snapped their 13 game road losing streak, 85–82.
“Jasmine (Sneed) did a great job, she somehow got in between the ball and one of the girls and it went right to me and I put it in,” Patton said. “When I was looking up at the shot, it almost went out actually, but I was glad it kicked right back in.”
On the ensuing possession, the Wildcats (2–23, 0–12 BSC) drove the ball down the court as time ticked away, but junior guard Megan Patterson’s off-balance jumper was blocked by sophomore forward Khyra Conerly and rebounded by Sneed, the freshman point guard, who sealed the game with a pair of free throws with 0.3 seconds left.
“Jasmine got a hand on it. Jumped up, got a hand on it and Amy on the deflection was able to chase it down and roll it in for a layup,” said head coach Laurie Kelly. “It was exciting, like it is almost a release now looking back.”
The win became the first in which the Lumberjacks allowed more than 60 points this season.
“Our whole team is really happy right now, it feels good to get at least one road win before our season is over,” Patton said. “We pulled it together and we actually finished a game that was close and we were down.”
While escaping with a victory, the Lumberjacks managed to make it much tougher on them than it needed to be. With less than 10 minutes remaining in the game, NAU led 71–57 and appeared to be cruising to its first road win of the season. In their previous meeting in Flagstaff, NAU defeated Weber State 71–58 and led the entire second half.
But Weber State rallied for an 11–1 run and chipped away the rest of the lead until tying it at 81 on a pair of free throws with 1:33 remaining.
“We were up 14 with 10 to go. You were thinking ‘Ok, let’s put this away,’” Kelly said. “And then the unthinkable happens. We stop making shots, we start turning the ball over, and we start giving them really easy looks defensively.”
The Wildcats blew an early lead themselves, as they led 27–16 with less than seven minutes left in the opening half. But Patton shot the Lumberjacks back in it, hitting a pair of long jumpers to trigger an 11–0 run.
The junior guard later drilled a trio of 3-pointers in the last four minutes of the half, the last coming 10 seconds before halftime to even the score at 40 going into the locker room.
“I definitely was feeling it, I guess. I feel like I always play good at Weber, I don’t know why that is,” Patton said. “I hit a couple shots at the end of the half to bring us back to them, it felt good.”
Patton hit 10-of-19 from the field, including 4-of-8 from outside on her way to her 28 points. She also grabbed five rebounds, dished out three assists and stole three balls.
Weber State’s junior forward Amanda Hughes matched Patton’s effectiveness, as she scored 20 points and grabbed a Big Sky Conference record of 24 rebounds, eight on the offensive end.
“We were either fouling her or letting her rebound the ball for a put back. They kept taking it at our fours [power forwards],” Kelly said. “They were very effective doing that and I think that’s what got them back into the game.”
NAU’s freshman power forward Erikka Banks, playing extended minutes in the absence of sophomore Shay May, was forced to attempt to contain Hughes.
“It was a challenge guarding the four because nobody could guard her,” Banks said. “The job was on me to guard her and I was trying my best.”
Despite the difficult assignment on the defensive end, Banks finished with career-highs with 12 points on 4-of-5 shooting and added eight rebounds.
“Having her [Banks] on the team right now and realizing what we need to work with her on, give her the spring and summer, I think she is going to have an outstanding career,” Kelly said. “She is such a freak athlete, she is so athletic. She does some really good things.”
With the win, the Lumberjacks’ slim hopes of a conference tournament berth remain alive. Following two weeks of road games, NAU returns home to face the Montana State Bobcats (16–9, 8–5 BSC) on Feb. 16.
“It’s not like you leave there saying, ‘Well we played so great.’ But we did the things we needed to do down the stretch to pull off the win,” Kelly said. “Did we want it to be that close? No, we didn’t. But are we glad that when we had to make a play when we did? We are glad.”