Vikings Win in Overtime, Advance To National Semifinals
Britt Harris (32) scored nine points in overtime to key WWU's 12th consecutive victory.
Britt Harris (32) scored nine points in overtime to key WWU's 12th consecutive victory.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Center Britt Harris scored a game-high 24 points, nine of them in overtime, as Western Washington advanced to the national semifinals with an 80-76 triumph over Nova Southeastern Tuesday in a NCAA Division II quarterfinal contest at Bill Greehey Arena.

Guard Corinn Waltrip had 21 points and six assists for WWU, and forced overtime on a driving bank shot with nine seconds left in regulation.

With the triumph, WWU (29-3) advances to the national semifinals on Wednesday (8:30 CDT), where it faces Ashland University. That contest will be televised live on CBS Sports Network and Root Sports Northwest and broadcast on radio on KPUG 1170.

Nova Southeastern, the champions of the South Region, completed its season 23-9. Tailor Jones led the Sharks with 20 points and a game-high 11 rebounds.

Harris and Jones each had the first six points in overtime for their teams to knot the score at 74-74 with 1:13 remaining, but Harris had the last word, wrestling the ball away from two NSU defenders to hit a layin, get fouled, and convert the free throw, giving the Vikings a 77-74 lead with 31 seconds left.

Trishi Williams then stripped NSU’s Jessica Russi of the ball at the other end, and Waltrip hit one of two free throws to push the margin to four.

Russi converted a putback with 10 seconds left to narrow the gap to two (78-76) but Waltrip sealed the Western victory with two free throws.

“We were in situations like that, with close games, all the time the first three quarters of the season,” said WWU coach Carmen Dolfo.  “We’re well practiced in it, we don’t panic, we know what we have to do.”

The Vikings led by as many as 17 points in the first half and held a 42-29 lead at halftime after shooting 68.0 percent (17-of-25) from the field and having a 21-8 advantage in the opening half.

But Nova Southeastern rallied using defensive pressure that forced 29 WWU turnovers in the game. Trailing by eight (62-54) with eight minutes remaining, the Sharks ran off 10 straight points, taking a 64-62 lead on a Jones free throw with 4:05 left.

Neither team led by more than two in regulation after that.  

Amanda Burakoski’s jumper gave NSU a 68-66 lead with 1:33 left, but after both teams missed on their next possessions, Waltrip drove the right side and hit a bank shot of about eight feet to tie the score.

NSU’s Meixandra Porter drove the length of the floor and missed a 12-footer, and Burakoski’s putback attempt was off left, forcing overtime.

“Things will go wrong sometimes, but we can’t get down, we have to keep fighting,” Waltrip said of the second half. “We believe in each other, we believe in what we do, and that gets us through.”

Forward Sarah Hill had 10 points and seven rebounds for the Vikings, who have reached the national tournament 14 of the last 15 years but advanced to the national semifinals for the first time since 2000. The 29 wins are just one short of the school record.

For the game, WWU shot 55.2 percent (32-of-58) from the field while holding NSU to 40.3 percent (29-of-72), and also had a 41-31 advantage on the boards.

Harris was 9-of-12 from the field, and Waltrip was 8-of-11.

Danielle Robinson had 18 points for NSU and Burakowski added 16.