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Once in a while, a team will play a game in which key points are decided on free throws.
But at times in the foul-heavy second half of the Valley City State University womens basketball team's 64-58 win over South Dakota School of Mines and Technology Saturday at W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse, the charity stripe seemed to be the primary method of scoring.
The two teams combined for 45 free throw attempts in the half alone, with the Vikings getting 18 of their 33 second-half points at the line.
"Both teams. Wow. I was like 'Really?'" said VCSU coach Jill DeVries, who credited it to the pace of the game.
"I thought that was very hard fought, even in the first half, where both teams were having trouble catching their breath and sometimes when you're tired and you don't have the legs, you don't move as fast and you foul them, so I think that had a little bit to do with it on both sides."
Though the free throw shooting percentage for the Vikings, who went 24-35 overall from the paint, wasn't as high as DeVries would have liked, the Vikings closed out as they needed to, clinching the team's second 20-win season in the last three years.
The Vikings won 23 games two seasons ago but fell one win short of the mark last year.
Saturday, the team had its ups and downs but ultimately closed it out despite a late surge from the Hardrockers.
At the ups, Valley City controlled the ball and ran its relatively balanced offense.
The downs were steals by S.D. Mines that led to fastbreak points on the other end of the court.
Valley City State scored the opening points of the game, but then struggled with turnovers as the Hardrockers put together a run that made the score 13-4, and eventually bumped the lead as high as 10 points with 12:43 left in the half.
The Vikings responded with a free throw by Alyssa Hummel that led started a 13-2 run to give VCSU a 23-22 lead. The run included five points from Katie Ralston, along with a 3-pointer from Sadiqah Jihad, and layups from Courtney Titus and Courtney Dixon.
S.D. Mines spent the rest of the half getting ahead only for VCSU to match it. Brittany Lehner and Mariah Smith hit layups to give VCSU a 31-28 lead with 29 seconds in the half, but a three-point play by Devyn Asche tied it up before the break.
VCSU then opened the second half with a 13-4 run in the first 12 minutes, but as the fouls added up, the game went to the line, with the two teams taking a five total trips to the line in less than a minute of playing time.
It gave S.D. Mines the momentum start a run that whittled VCSU's lead to 50-48 before Ralston and Kelsey Hunter scored points to get the lead back up to nine. Hunter's layup with 2:47 left in the game made the score 57-48 and was the last shot VCSU made from the field.
The Vikings' remaining seven points were scored by Titus, who hit six free throws in the final two minutes, and Jihad, who had one.
On the other end, VCSU played strong defense, with Hummel snaring a late steal before running out the clock.
Titus led VCSU with 17 points, including a 13-16 finish from the free-throw line. Ralston had 11 points, which included two 3-pointers, and Brittany Lehner had nine points. Kelsey Hunter led the Vikings with seven of the team's 41 rebounds.
The Hardrockers finished the game with 17 steals and forced 27 total turnovers from VCSU. Katie Strandholm led S.D. Mines with 17 points, nine from the free-throw line, and was one of two players with four steals. Hillary Hawkins had 14 for the Hardrockers.