Portland looked to take a conference game from Santa Clara at the Chiles Center on Thursday night. Even though the Pilots led for most of the game, a strong fourth quarter from Santa Clara spoiled it, handing Portland their 10th loss of the season, 72-66.
The first quarter for the Pilots started hot as they jumped out to a quick 5-0 lead before Santa Clara got the ball rolling. Santa Clara took advantage of one of Portland’s five turnovers in the quarter to grab their first bucket.
Portland also forced their fair share of turnovers, taking the ball away from the Broncos seven times to help build a 14-12 lead at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw a slow start as the first bucket for both teams came with nearly three minutes already off the clock. Portland got it going and owned much of the quarter with a small lead. The lead evaporated and was taken over by a last second three pointer from Santa Clara that gave the Broncos a 29-27 lead going into the locker room.
Portland senior forward Julie Spencer led the Pilots in the first half with 11 points in a half where points were at a premium. Spencer also became the latest Pilot to hit 1,000 points in her career after she sank a free throw in the first quarter.
“It's an accomplishment,” Spencer said. “It's been a dream that I’ve been working for since I got here.”
Coming into the night Spencer needed just eight points to reach the benchmark. She finished with 25 points and added eight rebounds.
The third quarter was close in the opening stages as the two squads battled it out. The Pilots would get the better of the Broncos late in the third as Portland found high percentage looks.
The Pilots opened up the floor with good spacing on the offensive side of the ball. Portland was patient and passed the ball around to find an open seam in Santa Clara’s defensive zone scheme.
Both teams cut back on turnovers which led to a burst in scoring for both sides. Senior Pilot forward Julie Spencer continued to pour in the points down low and sophomore guard Josie Matz exploded for five points in the final 30 seconds of the quarter. Portland took a commanding 51-40 lead into the final quarter of the game.
Santa Clara was not done though as they battled back to tie the game following a 15-2 run in the opening five minutes of the second half. Portland battled, but the dominant shooting from three for the Broncos proved to be too much.
“We have to execute, we did not take a good care of the ball which led to points for them,” Pilots head coach Cheryl Sorenson said. “We have to be better in believing in ourselves and closing out wins.”
The Pilots were outscored by 17 points in the fourth quarter alone, making it tough to seal the deal.
Portland returns to the Chiles Center this Saturday, Jan. 26 at home against San Francisco.
Jamison White is a sports reporter at The Beacon. He can be reached at email@example.com.