Portland is up by one, the shot clock is off with two seconds left in the game and Pepperdine is at the free throw line shooting two. As Pepperdine’s Hannah Friend approaches the line, the Chiles Center fills with the cheers, boos, feet stomping and yells of the crowd. As Pepperdine misses the first shot, the dome erupts ten times louder than before. Head coach Michael Meek jumping up and down with his arms wide, commanding the crowd louder. Pepperdine misses the second shot and fouls junior Lauren Walker. With less than two seconds left in the game now, Walker gets the winning shot and the buzzer goes off.
In a game of ebbs and flows against the Pepperdine Waves, the Portland Pilots emerge victorious, 69-67, in the last minute of play, elevating their conference record to 6-3 to secure third in the WCC.
Portland got off to a hot start in the first quarter, putting up a fast 6-0 lead in the first minute and a half. On offense, the Pilots scored with fast passes swinging along the outsides of the arc. On the defensive end, they worked best using double teams.
Sophomore point guard Haylee Andrews scored the first point of the game and was a constant force for the team. She scored 21 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.
“She’s such a great leader and such a great teammate,” Meek said of Andrews. “The team rallied behind her in so many ways.”
Portland started pressing early, but would get caught on the wrong side of the court and have to chase back to defend. Falling back on defense gave Pepperdine the leeway to close the Pilot’s lead.
“I think we had a few more turnovers than we would have liked for the team,” Andrews said. “They really pushed us hard tonight.”
As the first half went on, the Pilots got sloppy, and the Waves capitalized on intercepted passes and steals. The first half ended with Portland still in the lead 31-26 and in clear control of the game on both ends of the court.
“This is just such a fun team to watch play and they leave everything they can on the court,” Meek said.
Junior center Lauren Walker came out aggressively, scoring 11 points, six rebounds and three assists. But midway through the third quarter, she found herself in foul trouble with four personal fouls.
The Pilots did not show up in the third quarter. In the first four minutes, Pepperdine scored nine and the Pilots were held to only five points. Portland caught a break as their opponents racked up five fouls and found themselves in the bonus. This lit a fire in the Pilots, as they pushed past the 40-point mark holding on to a small three point lead.
Freshman forward Alex Fowler came up clutch for the Pilots as an offensive and defensive threat, finishing with 19 points, five rebounds and one fourth quarter clutch block.
In the third, the Pilots had energy in waves. The team went on long runs of consecutive possession for minutes but then would forfeit control of the game to their opponents to go on their own run of points.
“We really hype each other up and give each other energy,” senior guard Kate Andersen said. “As a team, we instill confidence in each other and that really motivates us to push hard.”
During the team’s runs of highs and lows, Andersen was another strong leader effective on both sides of the court. She had 12 points and seven rebounds and also contributed to leadership and energy.
After having a productive afternoon, Andrews went down holding her right ankle and left the game in the second minute of the last quarter. Andrews checked back in for the final four minutes of the game as Fowler fouled out.
“She is our primary point guard and we feel the most confidence when she has the ball,” Andersen said of Andrews. “Luckily she came back so we were able to go out there and fight.”
The last two minutes of the game were neck and neck. Pepperdine led by one going into the last minute and Portland retaliated for the one point lead in the last sixteen seconds.
“Every minute the lead was changing, so it’s just a really competitive game between two really good teams,” Meek said.
With this win, the Pilots now have more conference wins (six) half-way through the season than they did all 2018-19 season (five).
The Pilots’ next game is next Thursday, Jan. 30 at 7 p.m. against BYU in the Chiles Center.
Morgan Wahler is a sports reporter for The Beacon. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.