Brooke Walling scored her 1,000th career point as a Viking and Western Washington University women’s basketball upended Montana State University Billings, 76-68, at home on Saturday, Jan. 27, to take over first place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.
Five Vikings scored in double digits as No. 17-nationally ranked Western snapped the No. 9 Yellowjackets’ seven-game win streak while extending its own win streak to seven games.
Walling scored a team-high 18, sophomore Mason Oberg had 14, junior Aspen Garrison had 11, junior Maddy Grandbois didn’t miss a shot while scoring 11 and senior Stephanie Peterson filled the stat sheet with 10 points, nine rebounds, six assists and six steals.
“I feel like we figured out what we needed to do and just being intense all the time,” Peterson said. “We have our practice player pressuring me up the court all day, every day of practice. That’s helped me a ton to get more comfortable with the ball.”
The Yellowjackets were led by senior forward Kola Bad Bear and junior forward Dyauni Boyce each scoring 17 points on the night.
Western (16-3, 8-1 GNAC) shot 56.9% from 2-point land and 52.6% on 3-pointers. MSU Billings (17-4, 8-1 GNAC) shot 38.3% from inside the arc and 30.4% from 3-point territory.
It was a heavyweight matchup between the GNAC’s top two teams.
An offensive masterclass for the Vikings was the tale in the first quarter. Back-door cuts led to open layups, deep 3s from Oberg and players moving the ball around unselfishly resulting in an early 24-15 lead for Western.
After missing a few games due to injury, Oberg returned and immediately had an impact from range. Having no qualms with shooting 25 feet away from the basket, Oberg made four of five 3-pointers she attempted.
“I feel like no matter where I am, if I’m hot, I’m probably going to shoot it,” Oberg said.
Walling eclipsed the 1,000-point mark in her Western career as the first quarter ended. She is the 29th player in program history to reach the milestone and has 1,153 points in her collegiate career, including the two seasons she played at Fresno State.
“She’s such a rock for us and she’s so selfless, too, as she does such a good job of finding open people,” Western head coach Carmen Dolfo said. “She just works so hard and we all love playing with her. She’s the real deal.”
Western went on a big scoring run to start the second quarter without a response from the Yellowjackets. But after going down double digits, MSU Billings battled back to make it a four-point game at the half, trailing Western 34-30.
Forced entry passes into the post resulting in turnovers plagued both teams for the majority of the game. Western had 25 turnovers on the night while MSU Billings had 16.
But the Vikings’ offense kept rolling as they built a 15-point lead by the end of the third quarter to enter the final frame up 56-41.
An and-one for Garrison set the tone for the 4th quarter as the Vikings amped up their defense with a full-court press.
An alley-oop finish from Walling pushed the lead to 18 with eight minutes left. Scrambling to quash Western’s offense that was firing on all cylinders, a press from the Yellowjackets was no use as the Vikings quickly dismantled it through methodical passing.
But MSU Billings didn’t without putting up a fight.
An and-one followed right after with a 3-pointer by Bad Bear gave the Yellowjackets some life. Timeout after timeout was called on both ends as the Vikings desperately clung to their 10-point lead. Made free throws from Peterson gave the Vikings their fifth double-digit scorer and secured the victory.
Dolfo said she was most impressed by her team’s selfless attitude. Winning is all about sharing the ball and making the right play, she added.
“Our motto is we,” Dolfo said. “I think that’s what we really buy into is we on the offensive end and we on the defensive end. That’s what makes us hard to play against because it’s not just one person, it’s we.”
The Vikings’ next game is at 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1 at home where they will face off against Alaska Fairbanks (4-15, 2-7 GNAC).
A previous version of this story stated Brooke Walling had passed the 1,000-point mark in her collegiate career. Walling reached 1,000 career point as a Western Washington University player, but has 1,153 career points including her two seasons played at Fresno State. The story was updated to reflect this change at 11:16 a.m. on Sunday, Jan. 28. Cascadia Daily News regrets the error.