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Hanson shot lifts Portland St past E Wash to win Big Sky

March 15, 2019
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Portland State celebrates their 61-59 win over Eastern Washington in an NCAA college basketball game in the championship of the Big Sky tournament in Boise, Idaho, Friday, March 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Otto Kitsinger)

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — When Portland State coach Lynn Kennedy drew up his game-winning play with 19 seconds left in the Big Sky Tournament championship game, having Desirae Hansen heave up a shot wasn’t part of the plan.

But when the plan fell apart, it didn’t matter.

Hansen drained a 12-foot jumper with 3.1 seconds remaining to lift Portland State to a 61-59 victory over Eastern Washington and claim the Big Sky tournament title and NCAA Tournament berth on Friday.

“We had three options on that play and (Hansen shooting) wasn’t one of them,” Kennedy said laughing. “But when we run last minute drills in practice, Desirae hits a lot of those shots.”

Hansen, the Big Sky’s co-Top Reserve for the 2018-19 season, said she hit the shot on the playground many times as a young girl.

“Every little kid dreams of hitting a shot like that,” the freshman said. “Then one day, you get a chance and you hit it for real.”

Portland State (25-7), which knocked off top-seeded Idaho in the semifinals, trailed by seven points with 5:35 remaining but closed the game on an 11-2 run. The only other time the Vikings made the NCAA tournament was in 2010 — when Eastern Washington hosted the Big Sky tournament.

Kennedy, who took over the Portland State program that was in shambles four years ago coming off a 4-25 campaign, couldn’t stop smiling after the game.

“Four years ago, these players believed in a system that wasn’t in place,” Kennedy said. “We only had three players on campus when we arrived. They believed in an arena that wasn’t built and they went to work. But I go back to our team retreat in the fall and we all believed a hundred percent that we would be in this moment, cutting down the nets.”

But that moment didn’t come without a harrowing finish that nearly resulted in an Eastern Washington upset.

Tournament MVP Ashley Bolston tallied 16 points and 10 rebounds to lead the Vikings. Her short baseline jumper with 1:50 remaining gave Portland State a 59-57 lead, its first since early in the third quarter.

Sixth-seeded Eastern Washington (13-20) fought back to tie the game when Jessica McDowell-White, the Eagles’ hero from Wednesday’s semifinal victory, made a soft floater in the paint with 20 seconds remaining to tie the game at 59.

But Hansen’s shot held up after Portland State’s defense survived a pair of shots in the waning seconds.

Courtney West added 11 points for Portland State, while Sidney Rielly and Jordan Stotler had 10 each.

Alissa Sealby scored 15 points and McDowell-White added 14 to lead Eastern Washington.

BIG PICTURE

Portland State: With a strong inside game and one of the Big Sky’s best outside shooting teams, the Vikings should prove to be a formidable foe for whichever program it meets in the first round.

Eastern Washington: The Eagles will smart from this loss all offseason as they appeared to be in control with about six minutes remaining before the wheels came off. However, they will have something positive to build on after starting the season 2-11 and coming within a whisker of winning the tourney title. More importantly, McDowell-White, whose heady inbounds pass to herself off a Northern Colorado player underneath the basket with three seconds left led to the game-winning bucket in the semifinals, just completed her freshman season and has a promising future at Eastern Washington.

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