Two Last-Second Winners Earn WWU Team of the Week
Kayla Bernsen (right) led the Vikings in scoring this week and made the game-winning shot against Central Washington.
Kayla Bernsen (right) led the Vikings in scoring this week and made the game-winning shot against Central Washington.

Monday, February 9, 2015

PORTLAND, Ore. - One of the most exciting and emotional plays in sports is a last second game-winning shot in college basketball. Western Washington had two of these last week at Sam Carver Gymnasium, thrilling crowds of almost 1,300 and earning the Vikings Red Lion Hotels Team of the Week honors.

Forward Sydney Donaldson nailed the game-winner with one second on the clock in the Vikings 70-69 victory over Northwest Nazarene Thursday while center Kayla Bernsen was the hero of Saturday’s 62-61 win over Central Washington.

The two one-point victories were the Vikings closest conference clashes of the season and, more importantly, positioned them a half-game out of second place in the GNAC standings with just five games remaining before the conference tournament.

“There’s such a degree of luck in tight situations," head coach Carmen Dolfo said. "We were very lucky to have possessions at the end of both games for a chance to win and our seniors did a great job of executing.”

After tough road trips to Alaska and Montana, Western Washington (15-7, 9-4 GNAC) had the chance to play in front of its home crowd for the two thrillers.

Against NNU on Thursday, the Vikings took a 26-13 advantage in the first 10 minutes after hitting four of five three-pointers, two by senior Katie Colard. The Crusaders came back, going on a 20-9 run to close out the half.

In the second, Western Washington scored early and often again, this time leading by 11 with five and a half minutes to go. Northwest Nazarene wouldn’t go down easy however, coming back to take a one point lead with less than two minutes remaining.

After two missed shots and a turnover by the Crusaders in these last minutes, WWU had a chance to clinch it with two seconds left in the game. Donaldson received the inbounds pass from Colard and drained the shot from the left side of the key for the game-winner.

“We were up by 11 with five minutes to go and the momentum went NNU’s way," Dolfo said. "We knew what our best play was in that situation. Our seniors did a great job of executing and Sydney hit the shot.”

Forty-eight hours later the Vikings were on the hardwood again against state-rival Central Washington in front of 896 fans.

The Vikings kept pace with the Wildcats in the first, but found themselves in a 10-point hole with 13 minutes left in the game.

After Colard hit one of her three triples on the night, WWU made a run to tie the game with just under three minutes remaining.

The two teams traded baskets and the Vikings found themselves down one with only seconds to go. Colard hit her first free throw after being fouled on a drive with three seconds on the clock, but missed the second. Bernsen was there to corral the miss and put up a short jumper to win it as time expired.

“We were down for most of the game and we just kept chipping away," Dolfo said. "Katie did a great job of driving to the hoop and getting fouled. She’s a 93 percent free throw-shooter and we weren’t anticipating the miss, but luckily Kayla was there and got the ball just over the rim.”

Bernsen, who missed all of last season with an ACL tear, was the Vikings leading scorer on the week with 19 points in each victory while also grabbing a team-high 14 rebounds. Colard added 28 points while fellow senior Jenni White contributed 20 points and 10 assists.

The Vikings have won nine of their last 11 games after starting the season 6-5 and 0-2 in the GNAC, only losing to top 25 teams in Alaska Anchorage and Seattle Pacific in that span.

Western Washington will play on its final road trip of the regular season this week, facing Saint Martin’s on ROOT SPORTS Wednesday before taking on Western Oregon Saturday.