WSU ends drought against EWU

Daryn Hickok (21) aiming for the basket while EWU players attempt to stop her.

Winning their first game against a Big Sky conference opponent, Weber State University’s women’s basketball team beat Eastern Washington University 68–65 at the Dee Events Center on Jan. 28.

“I think that’s what we’ve been working up towards,” Wildcat forward Laura Taylor said. “We’re going to take what it is, whether it’s 2 points, 5 points, whatever it is. We’re just hyped. We’ve just come together as a team and we’re so excited.”

Eastern Washington was the first to get on the board as guard Jamie Loera hit a shot from the baseline, drawing contact off Wildcat forward Daryn Hickok and converting on the and-1 attempt.

Hickok started Weber State’s scoring with two made free throws. Hitting a long 2-pointer, the Wildcats’ first field goal came from guard Aaliyah Ellis off an assist from guard Kaiija Lesane.

Driving inside and making a layup, guard Ava Williams gave Weber State their first lead of the game. Eagle guard Aaliyah Alexander responded with a layup of her own.

Battling for the lead, Wildcat forward Laura Taylor made a reverse layup under the basket. Weber State guard Charlotte Hegvold dove into the opposing benches, directly into Eastern Washington’s director of operations, Jordyn Boesel, to save the ball from going out of bounds. She passed to forward Jadyn Matthews who scored a 3-pointer.

“I talked to her [Hegvold] yesterday because I said ‘you haven’t played but I just need steadiness at the PG spot,” Wildcat head coach Velaida Harris said. “She came in and she gave me exactly that. That’s a big deal.”

Tied at 18 points at the end of the first, Alexander hit two free throws to give the Eagles an early lead in the second quarter. Matthews responded by making a layup and drawing contact, converting on the and-1 opportunity. Building on the lead, Williams hit a heavily contested turnaround jumper inside to put the Wildcats up 23–20.

Following a layup from Eagle power forward Milly Knowles, Taylor hit an inside floater right before the shot-clock violation buzzer sounded.

“When I shoot, I pretty much just don’t think,” Taylor said. “It’s just my time.”

At the end of the half, the Wildcats were up 32–26. Matthews finished the first half with 10 points and Taylor with 9 points, two rebounds and two steals.

Trying to turn the game around, the Eagles came into the third quarter strong. Starting with two made free throws from Loera, Eastern Washington went on a 7–0 run out of the gate.

Stopping the Eagles’ momentum, Wildcat forward Vicky Parra blocked a layup attempt from Loera, leading to a layup from Hickok to put the Wildcats up.

Eastern Washington small forward Jaydia Martin made two free throws. Loera added to the 1-point lead with a 3-pointer. Ellis responded with a 3-pointer of her own to bring Eastern Washington’s lead down to 1 point.

Trying to pull away, Alexander made a 3-pointer and a layup to put the Eagles up by 5 points. A 3-pointer from Hegvold stopped the run but couldn’t stop Eastern Washington from finishing the quarter with a 52–46 lead.

Martin made two free throws early in the fourth quarter to put the Eagles up by 8 points. Working their way back into the game, Wildcats Lesane and Taylor both hit unanswered 3-pointers. Drawing a foul on Martin, Lesane made two free throws to tie the game at 54.

With under five minutes left, Lesane drove under the basket, wrapping a pass behind an Eastern Washington defender to find Williams for inside points.

With three minutes left, Williams scored to put Weber State up by 7 points. Trying to catch up, Martin hit a layup and a free throw. A free throw from Lesane was able to provide some breathing room with a minute left, but a 3-pointer from Eastern Washington guard Jaleesa Lawrence made the score 67–65.

A free throw from Williams brought the score to 68–65 with 10 seconds left. Attempting a 3-pointer, Loera missed in addition to Eagle guard Gabrielle Jung missing a layup. Hickok caught the rebound and held onto the ball till the final buzzer rang.

Matthews finished the game with 14 points, four rebounds and four assists. Williams, Hickok and Taylor were all able to score over double-digits.

“I think what was important for these women is to know that you just have to keep battling,” Harris said. “I said to them the other day, the quote of the day was ‘The only way is through. We can’t avoid this.’ I also said, ‘You have to be prepared to fight because your competition won’t rest.'”

Weber State will square off against Idaho State University in Pocatello on Feb. 4 at noon.