VALLEY CITY, N.D. (VCSUVikings.com) – Two Vikings reached career milestones, and the Valley City State women’s basketball team won a huge conference matchup with Bellevue University on Sunday afternoon.
In a battle of one-loss teams in the North Star Athletic Association, Valley City State broke the game wide open in the fourth quarter, putting together a game-changing 13-1 run en route to a 67-54 victory.
Valley City State moves to 7-9 overall and is now 4-1 in the North Star Athletic Association. VCSU is tied with Mayville State atop the NSAA standings. Bellevue, ranked No. 24 in the NAIA, drops to 12-8 overall and 3-2 in the NSAA. The Vikings swept their weekend with a win against Dakota State as well on Friday. The Bruins went 0-2 on their weekend road trip, also suffering a loss at Mayville State on Friday.
Viking senior Kaitlin Connor became the new career blocks at VCSU with her 97th career block at the end of the first quarter on Sunday. She surpassed the old record of 96 held by Loni Hall. Senior forward Alli Vandal reached a milestone by scoring her 1,000th career point in the game, becoming the 16th member of the 1,000 point club at VCSU.
Vandal scored her 1,000th career point early in the fourth quarter when she was fouled on a 3-point attempt and sank all three free throws for a 52-39 lead. It was part of a 13-1 run that broke the game wide open for VCSU. Huber followed with a 3-point play inside, Connor hit a 12-foot jumper, and Alexis Bentz drained a 3-pointer to put the Vikings ahead 60-40 with 3:45 remaining.
Mackenzie Huber scored eight first-quarter points for the Vikings, keeping VCSU close as they ended the first quarter trailing 11-10. Huber scored again early in the second quarter, putting VCSU ahead 12-11 and sparking an 11-1 Viking run that put them up 21-12 midway through the second period. The Vikings led the rest of the way, thanks to a strong defensive effort up and down the lineup.
“The biggest takeaway from this game was our defensive effort,” said head coach Vanessa Keeler-Johnson. “I thought we showed great toughness and togetherness on that end of the floor. Offensively, we carried our momentum from Friday and had a similar mindset to attack and be aggressive.”
After taking a 24-17 lead into the locker room, the Vikings maintained their lead early in the third quarter, opening up a 30-21 advantage on Huber’s two free throws with 7:09 left in the third. Back-to-back turnovers by the Vikings led to a quick 5-0 Bellevue run, including a 3-pointer by Morgan Cuffe, that cut the Viking lead to 30-26.
Valley City State responded with five of their own, capped by Dierra Diegel’s right-wing 3-pointer to put VCSU ahead 35-26. Bellevue again cut the Viking lead to five points, but back-to-back 3’s by Hannah Schlecht and Emily Schafer gave VCSU it’s biggest lead of the third quarter at 41-30. Schafer would add two 15-foot jumpers late in the quarter – scoring VCSU’s last seven points – as the Vikings held a 45-36 advantage entering the fourth.
Huber continued to make an early case for conference player of the year as she posted her third straight double-double, leading the Vikings with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Vandal added 10 points and five rebounds. Dierra Diegel knocked down two 3-pointers as she finished with 10 points and eight rebounds. Schelcht and Schafer each added seven points.
VCSU shot 44 percent overall (22-50), 28 percent on 3’s (5-18) and 82 percent at the free throw line (18-22). Bellevue finished the game shooting 31 percent overall (18-58), 30 percent on 3’s (9-30) and 64 percent on free throws (9-14).
Faith Ross led the Bruins with 15 points, including four 3-pointers. Morgan Cuffe added 11 points, while Shanae Collins scored nine.
The Vikings held a 35-28 rebounding advantage. VCSU finished with 13 assists and 22 turnovers. The Bruins had eight assists and 17 turnovers.
Up next: Valley City State goes on the road for games at Dickinson State on Friday and Presentation College on Saturday. Bellevue returns home for games against Viterbo on Friday and Waldorf on Saturday.