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With a spot in the Association of Independent Institutions conference tournament on the line in the last two games of the year, Valley City State University coach Jill DeVries entered Wednesday's game against Dickinson State University hoping to see a little fire from her team.
Although the Vikings showed sparks early in the first half, it wasn't until the second half that those sparks turned into something real, erupting into a 34-3 run in the second half, which gave the Vikings a 77-51 win.
The game-changing run started with a layup by Alyssa Hummel nearly two minutes into the second half, only 30 seconds after DSU's Mandy Mullock hit two free throws to give the Blue Hawks the lead.
The run then lasted nearly 12 more minutes, with the last points of the run scored on a layup by Sierra Even with 6:13 left to give the Vikings a 66-33 lead.
It was a run fueled by solid rebounding, a few turnovers, and a strong ability to finish underneath the basket.
Defensively, the Vikings played Dickinson tight and kept the Blue Hawks from finding a rhythm in the second half. Dickinson finished 6-26 from the field and only 2-9 from the 3-point line.
On the misses, the Vikings were able to wrangle it up, get it down the court and in for a layup or shot.
"The thing about playing a 3-point shooting team is that you live and die by how it goes in," DeVries said. "I thought we did a really good job on the defensive end of only giving up one shot."
Once it was down the court, VCSU found a variety of players, including Brittany Lehner, Even, Allison Scherr, Hummel, Katelyn Ralson, Sadiqah Jihad and Kelsey Hunter, who came off the bench with 11 points in the second half.
Hunter led the Vikings with 15 total points.
On the team's misses, the Vikings grabbed plenty throughout the night and finished with 16 offensive rebounds. DeVries estimated about 12 points came on second-chance points.
In the run, the lead got as high as 30, though Dickinson whittled it down as low as 23 late in the game.
The Vikings also held an early lead in the game and were up 20-8 because of aggressive play. Towards the end of the half, the Vikings' turnover problems came into play against a defensive press that forced 18 turnovers in the first half.
With 15 seconds left in the half, the Blue Hawks tied it at 29, but VCSU separated it with a buzzer beating 3-pointer by Scherr.
In order to secure a berth in the A.I.I. championship tournament, the Vikings will have to get a win Saturday on the road against Mayville State University in the final game of the regular season.
DeVries said the Vikings will have to sharpen up a few things defensively to win, but noted that the Comets shot 64 percent the last time the teams played, an 83-69 home loss Feb. 4.
"Defensively we gave up 83 points and that's just not like us," she said. "Hopefully we'll do a better job on the defensive end of limited their wide open looks."