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Vikings Post 57-51 Comeback Win over the Pilots in the WNIT First Round

March 19, 2009

PORTLAND, Ore. --- The Portland State Vikings overcame a nine-point deficit in the second half to defeat the Portland Pilots 57-51 in the first round of the WNIT on Thursday night at the Stott center. Junior guard Laiken Dollente scored a team-high 17 points for the Pilots, who end the season with a 17-14 record.

The game was Portland's first post-season visit since advancing to the first round of the WNIT in 1999.

Portland State, which improves to 23-9, will move on to face the Oregon State Beavers in a WNIT second-round game on Saturday night in Corvallis.

The Pilots led by four at the half, but PSU came out of the locker room energized. The Vikings scored the first five points of the second stanza to claim a 26-25 lead.

But Portland would take over the momentum from there with a 9-0 run to make it 34-26. Senior Allyson Sievers hit a jumper to give the Pilots the eight-point lead. Moments later, Dollente drilled a three-pointer to give UP the 37-28 lead, its biggest of the game to that point.

The lead was still nine at 39-30 when Dollente hit a mid-range jumper with 15:00 left.

That's when Portland State responded with a spurt of its own. The Vikings embarked on a 15-2 run to claim a four point lead. Kelly Merchant's jumper made it 45-41 in PSU's favor. The Pilots would respond and tie the game three times during the next seven minutes.

After a turnover by Claire Faucher with the Pilots trailing by two and 2:10 to play, Dollente tied the score at 51-51 and with a jumper from the top of the key.

The Pilots would then go ice-cold from there and the Vikings took full advantage. UP missed its last couple of shots from the floor, allowing PSU to score the game's final six points to seal the win.

"We missed a few lay-ups during the last few minutes of the game and it cost us," UP head coach Jim Sollars said. "But give the Vikings credit. They did a nice job defensively."

Dollente added a career-high 11 rebounds for her first career double-double. Sievers finished with 16 points, but no other Pilot scored more than six.

The Pilots finished 22-for-60 (36.7 percent) from the floor. The Pilots hit six of seven free throws, but were able to connect on just one of 12 three-point attempts.

The Vikings weren't much better shooting, coming in at 37.5 percent (21-for-56). PSU was 10-for-13 from the line and five of 21 from behind the three-point arc.

PSU held a 41-34 advantage in rebounds, while the Pilots outscored the Vikings 32-24 in the paint. Turnovers weren't a major factor as Portland State finished with 17, while the Pilots had 13.

Kelsey Kahle finished with a game-high 30 points for the Vikings on 11 of 12 shooting. She also had 10 boards. Lexi Bishop hit four three-pointers en route to 12 points.

The Pilots began the game a bit sluggish as Portland State took the early lead. The Vikings enjoyed their biggest lead after Kahle hit a jumper to make it 21-12 with 6:10 left in the first half. That's when the Pilots came to life and made a 13-0 run to end the half.

Dollente began the run with jumper to cut the lead to seven. After a lay-up from senior Karlie Burris, sophomore guard Tara Cronin hit a free throw before making a steal at mid-court and racing the other way for a break-away lay-up that made it 21-19. Dollente then hit a pair from the line to push the run to 9-0 and tie the game at 21-21 with 2:45 left in the first stanza.

Back-to-back lay-ups from Sievers then gave Portland the 25-21 lead at the break. Sievers had a team-high 10 points at the break.

The loss caps a season of milestones for Portland. Coach Sollars was named the West Coast Conference Coach of the Year after leading the Pilots to a 10-4 league mark and their first winning season since 1998-99. The 17 wins are also the most since Portland won 19 games in 1997-98.

Portland's second-place in the WCC was the program's best league finish since 1996-97. The Pilots won the league regular season title that year with a perfect 14-0 record. The 10 conference wins are the most for UP since that same season.

Portland also defeated every WCC team this season. The last time the Pilots did that was during their undefeated run through the league in 1997.

"I'm so proud of our team," Sievers said. "We really gelled together. We learned from our losses and improved every single day. We proved many people wrong and second place in the WCC was a great accomplishment."