Ralston Breaks 1,000 Career Points as VCSU Women Go 2-1

The No. 12 Valley City State University women’s basketball team had a weekend full of ups and downs.
There were two wins, a close loss to an opponent the Vikings had beaten earlier in the year.  VCSU senior Katie Ralston even hit a scoring milestone, surpassing the 1,000 point mark in her college career.
But with their third game in as many days, the Vikings ended the weekend with a decisive win, beating Northern New Mexico 79-42 Sunday at W.E. Osmon Fieldhouse. The Vikings controlled the game from the start, jumping out to a 16-0 lead in just over four minutes and a 48-17 lead by halftime.
“It’s probably one of the best games where we’ve come out and had great energy,” said VCSU coach Jill DeVries said after the win. “We talked about it this morning and at pregame, that we just needed to bring an energy today because we’ve had three or four games in a row, including Saturday, where we came out, not necessarily flat, but we didn’t have a lot of high energy.
“I was really proud of the girls. They responded well.”
It was the second win the Vikings had over the Eagles in the three-day span. They opened the weekend with a 65-46 win Friday at Osmon Fieldhouse, before being upset in a 76-72 loss to sharp-shooting Johnson and Wales (Colo.) University.
In both games against Northern N.M., the Vikings enjoyed the benefits of a strong first half. In the opener Friday, the Vikings outscored the Eagles 37-23 to start and rolled the rest of the way.
The scoring finished with Ralston and freshman Ashli Lee scoring 12 points each. Sierra Even had nine points and Alyssa Hummel had eight.
In the finale Sunday, the method wasn’t much different. The points came early, even more so than two days before.
VCSU got possession on the opening tipoff, which allowed Brittany Lehner to draw a foul and hit two free throws to go up 2-0. Ralston then had a 3-pointer and a fastbreak layup that put the Vikings up 7-0, and a layup by Courtney Titus made it 9-0 with 18:13 left to play in the half.
Titus, Hummel and Lehner all scored to go up 16-0 and the Viking defense kept Northern N.M. from scoring until the game was five and a half minutes in, when Travana Johnson hit two free throws to narrow the VCSU lead to 16-2, and a 3-pointer by Shaniqua Perkins made it 16-5.
VCSU then went on  20-0 run in the next seven minutes, starting with 3-point shooting from Sadiqah Jihad and Ralston, then continuing with shots from Lehner, Ralston, Hummel, Titus and Stephanie Pedersen to go up 36-5 with 7:22 left.
The Vikings finished the half shooting 18-29 from the floor, including 5-11 from the 3-point line, and finished the game shooting 50.9 percent.
VCSU led 48-17 at halftime and continued rolling in the second half, getting the lead as high as 40 points with 10 minutes left to play.
The Vikings were led in scoring by Hummel, who is approaching the 1,000-point mark in her career. She had 18 points and was one of four Vikings to finish in double figures for scoring. Lehner and Ralston had 12 points each, and Pedersen had 10.
DeVries was pleased with her team’s passing as the Vikings had 21 assists total, including eight from Jihad.
JWU 76, VCSU 72
VCSU senior guard Katie Ralston had a bittersweet feeling Saturday during the Vikings’ 76-72 loss to Johnson and Wales (Colo.) University.
Though the Vikings lost, Ralston hit a personal milestone when she broke the 1,000 -point mark in her career. The points are split between her time at Lake Region State College in Devils Lake, where she played before transferring to VCSU last season, and Valley City State.
“It’s exciting that I got it, but in the end, it’s more about winning and losing and getting back to the national championship,” Ralston said Saturday. “It’s hard for me to be happy for myself, when we didn’t win, you know?” 
In the loss, which evened the series between the teams,  the Vikings faced a Johnson and Wales opponent that found a 3-point shot it had been missing the first time the teams played in December. In that game, Valley City won 78-38 in a trip to Denver.
In the rematch, the Wildcats found their stride from the arc, hitting 16 3-pointers in the game, including nine in the first half, and hit more shots from outside the arc (16) than inside it (10.)
“We watched them play Jamestown last week and (they) beat them by making 3’s,” DeVries said. “That’s what they did tonight too.”
The game played close most of the way, with JWU getting a lead as high as seven points in the first seven minutes, though VCSU answered back. The lead changed eight times in the half and the score was tied four times as the teams went back and forth. VCSU’s small runs were routinely stopped in their tracks by JWU, who took a 33-31 lead into halftime.
VCSU started the second half with a short run to make it 39-35, but JWU responded with a 9-0 run that took the lead back for the rest of the game.
It was a run broken by a 3-pointer from Ralston with 13:20 left that gave Ralston her 1,000th point.
The Vikings fell behind by as many as 14 points, but got the game within 2 points when Ralston hit a 3-pointer to make it 74-72 with two seconds left.
Ralston led the Vikings with 18 points and was one of four Vikings to hit double figures. Lehner had a double-double with 12 points and 15 rebounds, Titus had 11 points and Hummel had 10 points.
JWU was led by Samantha Neal and Kristen Ward with 18 points each. Caitlin Durkin had 16 points, as well.
Ralston was pleased to hit the 1,000-point mark, especially given a shoulder injury late last year.
“I’ve definitely had my ups and downs throughout my career but it’s definitely a big achievement,” she said, crediting the girls around her with helping hit the milestone. “Without having good teammates, you’d never have a chance to get to 1,000, so it’s definitely a team effort.” 
Valley City State 65, Northern N.M. 46
Friday at Osmon Fieldhouse
NNM 23 23 — 46
VCSU 37 28 — 65
Top performers:
NNM- Perkins 17 pts, Johnson 14 pts ,8 rebs.
VCSU-Katie Ralston 12 pts, Ashli Lee 12 pts, Sierra Even 9 pts
Johnson and Wales (Colo.) 76, Valley City State 72
Saturday at Osmon Fieldhouse
JWU 33 43 — 76
VCSU 31 41 — 72
Top performers: 
NNM: Ward 18 pts, 4-4 3 pt; Neal 18 pts, 5-11 3 pt.
VCSU: Brittany Lehner 12 pts, 15 Rebs; Katie Ralston 18 pts, 1,000 career pts
Valley City State 79, Northern N.M.  42
Sunday at Osmon Fieldhouse
NNM 17 25 — 42
VCSU 48 31 — 79
Top performers:
NNM: Perkins 10 pts; Johnson 10 pts. 
VCSU: Alyssa Hummel 18 pts, 6 reb; Courtney Titus 4 steals, 7 assists.