WWU Tops Fresno Pacific 86-72 in Season Opener

Nov. 10, 2017

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FRESNO, Calif. -- Senior forward Hannah Stipanovich led five Vikings in double figure scoring with 20 points as the Western Washington University women's basketball team earned an 86-72 victory over Fresno Pacific on Friday night in the season opener for both teams at the Special Events Center.

Stipanovich (St. Louis, MO/Clayton/MSU Denver) helped lead a balanced offensive attack by scoring 16 of her 20 points after halftime as the Vikings held off the Sunbirds throughout the game and never led by fewer than five points after taking a 41-32 lead to the half. WWU kept the lead at nine points or more over the last 4:35 in the fourth quarter en route to the season-opening victory.

Four players making their official debuts in Viking uniforms joined Stipanovich in double figures. Sophomore transfer guard Dani Iwami (Seal Beach, CA/Los Alamitos/Hawai'i Pacific) filled up the stat sheet with 16 points, 7 rebounds and a game-high 5 assists. Freshman forward Kelsey Rogers (Bothell, WA/Lynnwood) added 13 points, while freshman guard Emma Duff (Tumwater, WA/Black Hills) and redshirt freshman guard Gracie Castaneda (Arlington, WA) each added 11 points.

"It was a good team effort, our team answered when we needed to," head coach Carmen Dolfo said. "We need to cut down on our turnovers and little mistakes as we move forward. A great start for our young team."

The Vikings used a 5-0 spurt in the first quarter to pull away from a tie at 6-6 before the Sunbirds responded to close the deficit to 18-16 at the end of the quarter. Rogers scored the first 5 points of the second quarter to give WWU a 23-16 lead and the Vikings also closed the period with a run, pulling away from a 29-27 advantage by using a 12-5 spurt to end of the period and lead 41-32 at halftime. A pair of 3-pointers from Duff came during the strong finish to the period, which was capped by a layup from Iwami in the waning seconds of the quarter.

Fresno Pacific cut the WWU lead to five points on three occasions during the third quarter but each time the Vikings responded, leading 58-50 after the third quarter. The Sunbirds came within 64-58 at the 6:23 mark in the final period but WWU answered with consecutive baskets from Rogers and Iwami to regain a double-digit lead.

The Vikings put the game way with a 12-4 run after leading 71-63 with 4:48 left, as a 3-point play from Stipanovich began the spurt and a 3-pointer from junior guard Amanda Lance (White River, WA/Buckley) followed by a pair of free throws from Lance closed the run to give the Vikings an 83-67 lead with just over a minute remaining.

Castaneda had a game-high 4 steals while sophomore guard Lexie Bland (Ellensburg, WA) added 3 steals as the Vikings totaled 14 steals in the game. The Vikings had 42 bench points with Iwami¸ Duff, and Rogers coming off the bench along with junior guard Bobbi Westendorf (Auburn, WA/Kentridge/Tacoma CC).

Sophomore center Anna Schwecke (Evergreen, CO/Clear Creek/Colorado-Colo. Springs) finished with a game high 8 rebounds as WWU out-rebounded the Sunbirds 44-23, including a 15-6 advantage in offensive rebounds.

The Vikings shot 46.8% (29-for-62) from the floor in the game and went 22-for-24 (91.7%) at the free-throw line. The Vikings also hit 6-of-12 from long range, led by Duff who was 3-for-3 and Iwami who was 2-for-4.

Stipanovich was 8-for-12 from the field and made 4-of-5 free throws in posting her game-high points total.

Fresno Pacific was led by 18 points from Megan Lee while Rachel Berry (14 points) Cassie Pisik (10 points) and Landynn Munster (10 points) also scored in double figures for the Sunbirds. As a team, Fresno Pacific was 42.9% from the field (24-for-56) from the field while connecting on 5-of-15 (33.3%) 3-pointers and hitting 19-of-24 (79.2%) free throws.

Friday's game was part of the West Region Crossover Classic, hosted by Fresno Pacific, which features the Vikings, Sunbirds, Seattle Pacific and Humboldt State. The Vikings face Humboldt State Saturday night at 5:30 pm for their second game of the tournament. Seattle Pacific topped Humboldt State, 69-49, in the other West Region Crossover Classic game on Friday.

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