At halftime of the College of Southern Idaho women’s basketball team’s Scenic West Athletic Conference opener against Salt Lake Community College on Saturday, CSI head coach Randy Rogers had one number on his mind:
That was the lead the Golden Eagles held over the Bruins at the Region 18 tournament last season, and that was the lead they failed to hold. No. 21 CSI led No. 15 Salt Lake by 14 at halftime of Friday’s contest, and this time, the Golden Eagles held firm.
CSI had to deal with a late Bruins run, but kept its cool and earned a 62-60 victory.
“I was happy with our kids,” Rogers said. “We’ve been struggling a bit. I think, for our psyche, we needed to play well. We played so well for so long, we actually needed that win.”
As the teams opened the game by feeling one another out, neither really found an edge in the early stages. However, with 3:22 remaining in the first quarter, Salt Lake held a slight lead at 8-6.
It took more than a minute for either team to score from there, but, when it happened, the floodgates opened.
Sophomore Brooke Haney drained a 3-pointer for CSI (13-6) and sparked a 7-0 run to end the frame, as the visitors’ last basket of the period came at that 3:22 mark. The Golden Eagles carried that momentum over into the second quarter, too.
Freshman Alison Chanhthala came off the bench to knock down a triple 16 seconds into the quarter. She assisted a layup by freshman Allie Thayne 24 seconds later, and 32 seconds after that, a Thayne steal led to a layup from sophomore Bailey Hawkins.
A flustered Salt Lake went into a timeout just 1:20 into the second quarter, staring at a 20-8 deficit after a 14-0 CSI run.
“We just played together,” freshman Petra Farkas said of the run.
The Bruins scored their first basket in more than five minutes after that timeout, and stabilized a bit, but the Golden Eagles had established firm control by that point, and took a 32-18 advantage into halftime.
At the break, Farkas had already totaled 14 points and six rebounds, while Haney had eight. The Golden Eagles held the Bruins to 31 percent shooting from the field and forced eight turnovers in the first two quarters while committing just one.
The second half was not quite as simple for the Golden Eagles, though.
Immediately, Salt Lake opened on an 8-0 run after just over three minutes. Rogers said he knew the Bruins would never quite go away, and he was right.
He added that the Golden Eagles struggled to guard the perimeter, which was where the bulk of Salt Lake’s points came from as the visitors clawed their way back into the contest.
“Threes can add up quick,” Rogers said. “I was kinda disappointed we gave up those. You have to pick your poison…I thought we got a little slow on defense and gave them those looks.”
Despite a good push from CSI, including an 11-2 run in the fourth quarter and a 13-point advantage with 6:16 to go, the Bruins still found their way back, going on a 14-3 run to pull within two points.
The Bruins had possession and sought to win the game instead of tie, finding Laura Pichot open in the corner for a triple. She didn’t make it, though, and freshman Kaela McClure, a Jerome grad, grabbed the board.
Rogers considered calling a timeout, but watched as McClure, who he said looked like a 100-yard sprinter, ran around the court for about seven seconds, avoiding several attempted fouls by Salt Lake, and running out the clock.
“I just screamed!” Farkas said. “Everybody was just like, ‘yeah, we won.’”
Farkas finished with 20 points and 10 rebounds, leading the team in both categories. Haney added 13 points and Thayne chipped in 10.
Rogers said the performance, while it may not have been against the best Salt Lake had to offer, as the Bruins were missing their starting point guard, was a response to a poor performance in a win over Western Wyoming Community College on Thursday.
Rogers said he was particularly tough on his players after this one and wanted them to be in the right mind ahead of the contest with the Bruins.
Farkas added that the team had come a long way to pull off what it did on Saturday night.
“Two weeks ago, I thought we were not ready for a conference game,” Farkas said. “Now, everybody played really hard, our crowd was so big and, I don’t know what happened. We just played good.”